Global Agriculture

Mexico’s Ferromex pauses northbound trains

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21 September 2023, Mexico: Mexico’s largest rail company Ferromex has temporarily halted runs to the north of the country to prevent further injury and death to thousands of immigrants who have hitched rides on its freight trains.

The measure will reduce loading activity, supply and international commerce, the company said.

Ferromex so far has temporarily stopped 60 trains, equivalent to the capacity of 1,800 trucks, the company said. Ferromex operates 200 trains on three main routes, including along the west coast and the Gulf of Mexico coast.

Thousands of immigrants have climbed aboard trains covering routes in the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Aguas Calientes and Guanajuato as they try to reach the US border, Ferromex said. The company has halted operations on those routes to protect the immigrants.

“In recent days there were nearly half a dozen regrettable cases of injuries or deaths among groups of people who boarded the freight trains despite the serious danger this implies,” the company said.

Ferromex has a concession from the Mexican government to operate three routes in Mexico: Pacific-North, Ojinaga-Topolobampo and the Nacozari general railway in the state of Sonora.

The Ferromex freight train “La Bestia” (The Beast) has been used by immigrants for years to get from Central America and South America to the US border, but the economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the surge of violence in the region have increased the influx of people seeking asylum in the US.

Low impact on energy products

Ferromex and Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC) control over 70pc of Mexico’s rail system, including the border crossing and some of the most important commercial ports, but the portion of energy products in Ferromex’s business is not as significant as industrial and agricultural products.

In January-July, Mexican railroads carried 77.05mn metric tonnes (t) of products, of which Ferromex transported 36.68mn t, representing 48pc of the total in that period, while CPKC hauled 29mn t or 38pc, according to Mexico’s railway regulatory agency (ARTF).

Mexico’s railed transportation of oil and derivatives in January-July amounted to 9mn t, a hike of 13pc compared with the same period of 2022, ARTF data showed.

In 2022, transportation of oil, refined products, chemicals and fertilizers represented just 15pc of Ferromex revenues, the company said in its annual financial report. (see table)

“This stoppage will not affect the transportation of refined products [from the US border], as most the flow of those rail cargoes is typically from the north to the south of Mexico,” one source familiar with fuels logistics between both countries told Argus.

It is unclear how long will it take Ferromex to reinstate of the runs in northern Mexico. The company did not respond immediately to an Argus request for comment.

By Maria Eugenia Garcia.

Ferromex railcar transportation%
Agricultural products32
Industrial products11
Chemicals and fertilizers8
Source: Ferromex 2022 annual report

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