Delays grow for Mexico's trucked fuel imports
Petroleumworld 04 11 2019
Tank trucks bringing refined products into Mexico can take more than three times as long to cross the border northward and return since the US has pulled customs agents away for immigration duties.
The round trip for trucks traveling from northern areas of Mexico to bring refined products from the US is taking closer to 72 hours instead of the typical 16, fuel importer Enermex's chief executive Julio Jauregui told Argus .
"The intensified scrutiny of tourists and passenger buses is taking an eternity, leaving the few lanes open pretty saturated," said Jauregui, whose company has 1mn bl of fuel storage capacity at 10 sites in Mexico.
He said that the main delays for his company are at the Laredo-Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa-McAllen and Matamoros-Brownsville crossing points in Texas.
US president Donald Trump directed more than 750 US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers to be reassigned to border patrol tasks , which he said is needed to combat illegal immigration.
State-owned Pemex still imports most of Mexico's gasoline and diesel through waterborne shipments, but imports by private-sector companies — first envisioned in the country's 2014 energy reform — have grown over the past year.
Private-sector shipments were about 24pc of Mexico's total 300,000 b/d of diesel imports in January, while private-sector gasoline imports are still a smaller share — about 8pc of 670,000 b/d.
Mexico only has about three days' worth of storage capacity for refined products on average nationwide, making it sensitive to delays in imports, even if the amount moved by tank truck is not the majority of its supply.
Mexico's diesel imports grew to an average of 302,000 b/d in the first two weeks of March, according to preliminary data from the energy ministry. This is the highest weekly import volume this year so far.
Imports by rail are not affected by the delays at the border, as import paperwork is sent ahead and X-rays are used to check cargo.
The main bottleneck occurs when entering the US, Enermex's Jauregui said. Mexico's customs service has in turn moved to facilitate entry of fuel trucks with either "gasoline, diesel, jet fuel or refined products in general" since a fuel shortage crisis in January .
Some panic shopping and border crossing after Trump's recent threats to close the border entirely created additional delays, yet Trump today backed off his threat. He said instead he would impose tariffs on imports of car from Mexico if his demands on border immigration and drug interdictions are not met a year from now.
"The other drastic thing I am going to do before the border is tariff the cars," Trump said. "I am serious."
Imposing tariffs on Mexican-made cars would contradict both the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) and its replacement, the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement that awaits ratification by all three countries.
Shutting down the border could lead to potential economic damage from disrupting the roughly $1.4bn/day in commercial traffic.
Trump's economic team has advised him on the potential damage and is taking steps to ensure commercial traffic is not ensnared as a result of the closure, White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow said.
Selectively closing the border but keeping commercial traffic is a dubious proposition legally and logistically, the US Chamber of Commerce said. But the delays from reassigning CBP agents away from 48 points of entry along the border have direct costs for manufacturers, and "they are already accumulating," the chamber said.
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