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What is the Interoceanic Corridor with which Mexico aims to compete vs. the Panama Canal?



The Interoceanic Corridor is a project through which Mexico seeks to revive the Interoceanic Railway of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, a historically used rail route for the transportation of goods and people between the states of Oaxaca and Veracruz. Its objective is to facilitate the transport of goods between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, making the project an alternative to the Panama Canal.


The corridor was inaugurated by President Porfirio Díaz in 1907 to transport goods from the Pacific Ocean to the east coast of the United States. The railway line accommodated around 60 trains per day and contributed to the establishment of cities such as Salina Cruz in Oaxaca and Coatzacoalcos in Veracruz. However, the Isthmus project declined due to national circumstances in Mexico, coupled with the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914.


Modernization of the ports of Salina Cruz and Coatzacoalcos

Between January and October 2023, the ports of Coatzacoalcos and Salina Cruz experienced growth in cargo movement. Coatzacoalcos, under the Administration of the National Port System (ASIPONA), saw the movement of 28.9 million tons, while Salina Cruz, under ASIPONA, moved 9.4 million tons, as reported by the Secretariat of the Navy (SEMAR).


Both ports are key points of the Interoceanic Corridor of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (CIIT), prompting expansion projects for increased cargo capacity. A notable project includes the construction of the West Breakwater in Salina Cruz in coordination with SEMAR.


Construction of a new 3,000-kilometer railway line

The Tehuantepec Isthmus Railway has a railway line stretching over 1,200 km, connecting the states of Chiapas, Oaxaca, Tabasco, and Veracruz. These railways facilitate cargo transportation and allow transit between the two oceans. Additionally, they represent integral connectivity as an outlet for local production and passenger mobility services. It is estimated that by the end of 2024, more than 3,000 kilometers of railway will be constructed.


Development Poles for Well-being

Along the railway lines connecting the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic, ten Development Poles for Well-being will be distributed. These poles will provide ideal conditions for investment, industrial installations, and enhance the productive capacities of the region. The poles will focus on industries such as electrical and electronic, automotive, auto parts and transportation equipment, agro-industry, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, etc. Over 3,200 hectares of land have already been reserved for the installation of these development poles, which will stimulate the local economy, generate various employment opportunities, and serve as a catalyst for development in the southern part of the country. In Veracruz, five poles will be established: Coatzacoalcos I, Coatzacoalcos II, Texistepec, San Juan Evangelista, and Jáltipan; and in Oaxaca: Ixtaltepec, Ciudad Ixtepec, Santa María Mixtequilla, San Blas Atempa, and Salina Cruz.


Furthermore, by connecting the corridor to a network of over 1,200 km of railways, highways, and airports, logistics will be optimized, opportunities will be generated, and the region's strategic position in the world will be strengthened. This project will also link with the national railway network, North America, and Central America, promoting economic development and regional logistical efficiency.


Challenges of the Interoceanic Corridor of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec

• The creation of Development Poles requires adequate infrastructure, but the existing infrastructure in the region is insufficient and requires improvement.

• Environmental regulations, construction permits, and other legal requirements could cause delays and increased costs.

• Implementation of measures to reduce pollution and promote environmental practices.

• In the region, there is a limited supply of workers with the necessary skills, making it challenging to attract companies.

• Community participation and respect for the consent of local populations are crucial to avoid conflicts and ensure sustainable development.


In conclusion, the Interoceanic Corridor of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec is a project aimed at revitalizing the historic Interoceanic Railway. This project connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, intending to become a viable alternative to the Panama Canal, which has been affected by the El Niño phenomenon, rendering it unusable continuously. At SPARX, we have experts with effective solutions; call us and learn about our import and export services.


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