The Port of Coatzacoalcos is located on the south central shores of the Gulf of Mexico in the State of Veracruz. Known for a time as Puerto México, it stands at the mouth of the Coatzacoalcos River where it flows into the Gulf. In 2005, about 321 thousand people lived in the urban area of the Port of Coatzacoalcos.
An important port and center for transportation, the Port of Coatzacoalcos is connected to Mexico City to the northwest and Merida to the northeast by rail. It is the terminus of a railway that begins at the Port of Salina Cruz on the southern Pacific coast of Mexico. The Port of Coatzacoalcos exports petroleum products made in Minatitlán about 21 kilometers south and transferred to the port by pipeline and river transport. The Port of Coatzacoalcos also process exports of forestry, agricultural, and manufacturing.
When building a tunnel under the Coatzacoalcos River in 2008, remains of a sizeable pre-hispanic culture were unearthed in the Port of Coatzacoalcos. When the Spanish arrived in the 16th Century, Mayans were the main influence on the people in the area of the Port of Coatzacoalcos.
Hernán Cortés ordered a settlement established there in 1522, and Gonzalo de Sandoval called the settlement on the site of today’s Port of Coatzacoalcos Villa del Espíritu Santo. By 1825, the settlement had become the Port of Coatzacoalcos by federal decree. In 1896, the harbor and entrance channel was dredged to make the Port of Coatzacoalcos accessible to large vessels.
The name of the Port of Coatzacoalcos was changed to Puerto México in 1900 when jetties of a total 1.3 thousand meters were built. In 1905, work began on building the wharves and warehouses in the Port of Coatzacoalcos. With the 1910 Revolution and the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914, commercial traffic in the Port of Coatzacoalcos decreased; however, the port remained an important center for moving oil and agricultural products. Raised to the status of a city in 1911, the name was changed back to the Port of Coatzacoalcos in 1936. A new lighthouse was built in 1942.
During the 1970s oil boom, the Port of Coatzacoalcos was an important crossroads connecting the Yucatán Peninsula, the Campeche oil fields, and the rest of Mexico to the west coast’s Salina Cruz.
Petrochemicals are the most important industrial sector to the Port of Coatzacoalcos’s economy, with four large complexes near the city. The headquarters of the state-owned Pemex Petroquímica are located in the Port of Coatzacoalcos, and the vast majority of its production is focused there. After the Mexican Revolution, work began on the pipeline to two new refineries at Minatitlán (1939 and 1956). The first oil wharf was constructed in the Port of Coatzacoalcos in 1968 under Pemex.
The export of crude petroleum from the Port of Coatzacoalcos began in the 1970s, and specialized container terminals were constructed, beginning multi-modal services at the Port of Coatzacoalcos. The Azufrera Panamericana Terminal and the cement silos were built in 1975. In 1979, multi-modal services began with the construction of specialized container terminals.
During the 1980s, older Port of Coatzacoalcos wharves were reconstructed, including a wharf equipped with pipe for Pemex, and the new petrochemical complexes of Cangrejera and Morelos were finished. The Port of Coatzacoalcos obtained Mexico’s first wharf-side crane for containers in 1983 as well as additional equipment to improve port services. By 1985, the Port of Coatzacoalcos contained six covered warehouses, 15 open yards, 32 tanks, and two silos. In 1989, given the erratic amount of containerized traffic moving through the Port of Coatzacoalcos, the container crane and related equipment were moved to the Port of Veracruz.
The Administración Portuaria Integral de Coatzacoalcos was established in 1994. Four years later, the Port of Coatzacoalcos achieved a new high, surpassing three million tons of cargo through the port in a year. In 1993, the Protexa-Burlington company began operations at the rail-barge terminal.