When Dakotan began sailing for American-Hawaiian, the company shipped cargo from East Coast ports via the Tehuantepec Route to West Coast ports and Hawaii, and vice versa. Shipments on the Tehuantepec Route arrived at Mexican ports—Salina Cruz, Oaxaca, for eastbound cargo, and Coatzacoalcos for westbound cargo—and traversed the Isthmus of Tehuantepec on the Tehuantepec National Railway. Eastbound shipments were primarily sugar and pineapple from Hawaii, while westbound cargoes were general in nature. Dakotan sailed in this service on the east side of North America.
At the time of the United States occupation of Veracruz on 21 April 1914, Dakotan was in port at Coatzacoalcos. There she loaded 127 American refugees from sugar plantations in the area and steamed to Veracruz. As a consequence of the American action, the Huerta-led Mexican government closed the Tehuantepec National Railway to American shipping.
In early May, The New York Times reported that Dakotan had sailed to Cristóbal to pick up a cargo of sugar that had been originally slated for transport via Tehuantepec. According to the article, the sugar was to be carried on barges through the still-unopened Panama Canal, then loaded onto Dakotan. There was no indication in the newspaper whether this mission was completed or not, but it is known that American-Hawaii returned to its historic route of sailing cargo around South America via the Straits of Magellan after Tehuantepec was closed but before the canal opened.