Sooner or later the expansion of commercial ports will proceed in order to service free trade with Asia. This was the pronouncement made by President Felipe Calderón and the Communications and Transport Secretary. This expansion will turn the now tranquil Punta Colonet into one of the largest centers of commercial trade on the Pacific Coast.





























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Baja California

Punta Colonet could become
largest port on eastern Pacific

By Talli Nauman*

If anything could generate real estate speculation, it would be the proposed maritime center, or commercial port, in Punta Colonet, conceived to concentrate the growing trade between Asia and the United States in the state of Baja California, Mexico.

Located 80 miles south of Tijuana on the Pacific Coast, the town of 2,500 subsistence farmers and fishermen had seen better days before the onset of the current drought. Now all that remains is to wait out both the end of the global economic crisis and the outcome of lawsuits demanding that the federal government follow up on the commitment made by the Calderón administration to create the deep port, the largest public works project in the history of the nation.

The civic group Visión Ensenada 2025 identified Punta Colonet as the best site for a Baja California megaport project. For some time, Ensenada’s Business Coordinating Committee members have known about the scheme, which would entail receiving deep sea vessels too big to land in their city’s port. Ex-governor Eugenio Elorduy requested a feasibility study while he was still in office.

Concerned for a number of years about restructuring the Nautical Ladder, Fonatur’s federal megaproject, conservation groups are now casting wary eyes on the port project because it involves a $4 billion dollar investment and would include developing everything from houses and hotels to stores supporting the development, as well as highway improvement, railroad installations and an airport.

Becoming the projected multimodal maritime center would make Punta Colonet the largest port in Mexico and the third-largest in the world, after Singapore and Hong Kong. It would have an estimated population of 250,000 by 2025.

The periodicals of the shipping industry have already fingered Hutchinson Port Holdings Whampoa of China as the candidate to administer it. Meanwhile, in 2005 Maritime Terminals Corp. Holdings announced its interest in Punta Colonet and formed the affiliate MTC de Mexico in 2006.  They could handle up to 6 million containers a year and relieve pollution problems in the busiest ports on this side of the Pacific, namely those in Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif.

Instead of complying with the ever stricter rules of those overloaded ports, companies that transport merchandise between America and Asia could find facilities in Punta Colonet. Residents would have to demand the best available technology if they don’t want to suffer the same consequences as their neighbors in the ports of the north, says Jesse Marquez, founder of the Coalition for a Safe Environment, based in the port bedroom community of Wilmington, Calif.

The biggest source of air pollution in Wilmington and San Pedro, Calif. is the port operation of ships, trucks and locomotives. At the same time, sewage, toxic paint, and invasive species discharged by the boats dirty the harbor. They ruin fishing.

Even with its ample budget and reputation for strong environmental defense, California doesn’t know how to cover the high cost to public health caused by the ports. That’s why the coalition won 14 lawsuits in the past five years and offers to be a “guardian angel” for Baja California residents. It has a Port Communities Bill of Rights to protect the environment and health of port workers who are the most exposed to the contamination.

Meanwhile, Punta Colonet Real Estate invites developers “to be part of history with us,” and take advantage of “Mexico’s largest public works project.” Of course, property values have risen 100% between 2000 and 2005.

* Co-founder and co-director since 1994 of the independent media project Journalism to Raise Environmental Awareness, based in Aguascalientes, Ags.


Grassroots Bulletin on Sustainable Development in Northwest Mexico