The Brazilian port of Paranaguá has recorded a significant increase in the handling of vehicles in the first quarter of 2012, with imports up 77% on the same period last year and exports up 25%.
The port imported 35,000 units in the first quarter compared with 20,000 last year, while 18,600 vehicles were exported compared to 14,000 in the first quarter of 2011.
The figures build on growth shown in 2011 when Paranaguá handled 230,000 finished vehicles, a 27% increase on 2010.
The main exports markets remained Argentina, Mexico and Germany, with these three countries also being the main exporters of finished vehicles to Brazil.
In both directions, Volkswagen, Renault and Nissan generated the most vehicle movements.
Paranaguá has increased the number of vehicles it handles thanks to upgrades to its logistics provision, which has helped boost productivity.
At present, Paranaguá has two vehicles storage areas, able to hold 6,500 vehicles. A third area, which will be able to accommodate a further 2,500 units, is due to come on stream soon.
Following the result for 2011, superintendent of the ports of Paranaguá and Antonina, Airton Vidal Maron, said that existing facilities in Paranaguá would not have been sufficient to accommodate available volume, so the port has developed alternative areas in which to store vehicles.
"We have improved our internal logistics and also dedicated new areas for vehicle storage that weren't specifically designed for that purpose," he explained.
Parking areas are located close to vessel berths at the port, speeding up the loading and dispatch of consignments, with Berth 217 now mainly used for this type of traffic.
Car carriers at the port require a minimum of 150 vehicle moves per hour, well within capacity as Paranaguá is able to load up to 450 vehicles per hour. Ro-ro vessels look to move a minimum of 5,000 tonnes daily.
The port receives around 12 dedicated car carriers per month, with consignments of around 1,300 vehicles each, with handling taking around nine hours to complete.
The port attributes its good productivity to the professionalism of the labour pool.
Meanwhile, in neighbouring Mexico, the port of Veracruz has topped port activity for vehicle handling in the first quarter, recording an increase of 28%. According to figures from the Ministry of Transport and Communications, Veracruz accounted for 193,400 units of Mexico's total of finished vehicle imports and exports, which amounted to 269,265 units, a 22% compared to the first quarter of 2011.
The port of Lazaro Cárdenas also achieved an impressive increase, with the number of finished vehicles handled up more than 34.3% to 45,712 units.
That said, other ports have not fared as well. Manzanillo announced a 48.7% drop in the first quarter, handling just 9,389 units. Acapulco similarly struggled, with traffic down 16.3% to 15,983 units.
The Mexican Automotive Industry Association (AMIA) reports that overall production was up by 9.4% in March, a month in which exports also increased by 22.7%. Out of the total production of 268,625 units, 192,783 were sent abroad.
The cumulative figure for the first quarter saw car production rise by 11.3% to 713,643 units, while exports increased by 14.8%, totalling 589,581 units. The US remains Mexico's most important market, accounting for 60.4% of all finished vehicle exports in the first quarter, equivalent to 356,236 units.
Despite the current economic spat between Mexico and Brazil, the latter still imported 50,431 vehicles from Mexico in the first three months, which was an increase of 153.6%.
Argentina has also announced its intention to renegotiate the automotive agreement that it has with Mexico, although the AMIA is reluctant at this time to comment on this.
Mexico's domestic market is also buoyant. The Mexican Automotive Distributors' Association (AMDA) notes that in March, the 83,574 units it transported was 11.2% higher compared to March 2011. First quarter traffic amounted to 233,574 units, up 10.8%.
The next edition of Finished Vehicle Logistics magazine (July-September) will feature indepth reports on both South and North American vehicle ports.