Panama Canal Expansion May Impact Port Development

File:Missouri panama canal.jpgPanama has begun expansion of the Panama Canal, (described here) with the intention passing ships three times as large as those currently able to use the canal.

Meanwhile Panama is hoping US ports will be expanded to accept the larger ships,

“By WALTER C. JONES – Morris News Service – ATLANTA — The administrator of the Panama Canal chastised U.S. and Canadian officials Tuesday for not preparing their ports to take advantage of the expansion his country is undertaking. Alberto Aleman Zubieta, CEO of the Panama Canal Authority, stressed that Panama is doubling the canal’s capacity by widening its system of locks and waterways to accommodate ships three times the current maximum. But Panama won’t realize the full benefits if East Coast ports aren’t also enhanced to accept those ships. “What concerns me is how long it takes to do these types of projects and that they are not now being done in the U.S.,” Aleman was quoted as saying by Modern Materials Handling magazine.

“He made his comments to the logistics managers attending the inaugural trade show of MODEX, sponsored by the Material Handling Industry of America. In two years, the canal will celebrate its 100th anniversary with the completion of its expansion project. East Coast ports like Savannah, Jacksonville and Charleston hope to attract that added traffic. However, none are deep enough for the larger ships to enter fully loaded except at high tide. Only ports in New York and Virginia can now.”

This is likely to have a long term impact of the relative importance of ports in the US with ports that can accommodate these larger ships doing relatively better than ports unable to accept them.

(Photo credit: Photo #: 80-G-701369, Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.)

29 thoughts on “Panama Canal Expansion May Impact Port Development

  1. There is a huge controversy in Georgia/South Carolina about changing channel depth. The greater depth will require more water being released up river to maintain the depth.

    Water is a large issue. Atlanta is sucking the Chattahoochee and other water basins dry and has proposed building a pipe line from the Savannah River to supply the ever growing demand. The folks in Eastern Georgia and South Carolina are willing to fight this.

    The potential economic impact on job starved South Carolina is great but the environmental and water usage impact up river is as large.

    • “releasing more water up river?” Are opponents claiming that dredging a channel from the sea buoy to the pier is going to result in increased water flow up river?

      • The dredging will also go farther up river to a new facility on the South Carolina side.

        The way I understand the argument is that more water will have to be released from the two dams upriver to keep water levels to the desired depth. The water for Savannah’s channel comes from the river today. The problems are in drought years there will be less water for industry, farming and municipal use. All our water today comes from the Savannah River.

        There are also other environmental concerns including rebuilding the Right whale population off Savannah. Some biologists have see the increased fresh water will change the feeding and calving grounds. Until killed off, the Georgia coast was prime whale calving grounds.

        It is a tough problem that pits the needs of the future against badly needed jobs of today. South Carolina unemployment is about 10% but higher in the low country areas.

  2. This is huge issue with ALL East Coast ports. Several port authorities have already committed to dreging channels deeper and increasing terminals. Jacksonville has needed a deeper channel in the St John’s River for about ten years. It flows norhward i.e. out to sea from many sources to our south.

    Of course, it will go political because the Army Corps of Engineers budget is ALWAYS a hotly debated, highly political pork barrel to pull dreging projects from~

    It would seem Jobs versus Environment debate is always relavent, I do not see the environmental impacts as universally bad.

    • The Canal is owned by Panama, but it is managed by a company based in China.

      If you are thinking that if it came to a war, they would close the canal, I would have to say sabotage is not impossible, but it is difficult to do major long term damage and the Panamanians would resist that.

      • They manage other ports around the world as well. They have a good track record, and they were probably low bidder. They may be coming to a port near you.

      • Do you remember all that garbage about when an Islamic company was about 2 steps away from gaining control over one of our major ports? I remember all the stink about that. I don’t see this as much different. I love Chinese people, and their food, but I do not for one second trust their government or major government run companies!

    • Panama Canal not really relevant to China trade SINCE they are building a huge container port/terminal in Mexico to get around all US regs AND come up across the almost open southern border through already established border entry ports.

      • Thats a very interesting tidbit. Where did you read that? Its not only the US regulations but also, and significantly, the chokehold the ILWU has on US ports.

  3. “{Of course, it will go political because the Army Corps of Engineers budget is ALWAYS a hotly debated, highly political pork barrel to pull dreging projects from~”

    No greater hate and discontent over the COE budget is the intercoastal waterway. The Georgia portion is all but closed in spots with reports of only inches in depth.

  4. From the German Navy blog, Marine Forum, Dec. 22, “NICARAGUA, Ground breaking on “Interoceanic Grand Canal”, the China-financed $50 billion project to rival the Panama Canal … 280-km waterway planned to become operational around 2020.”

  5. “At least four ports in Florida, Georgia and Texas have decided to foot the bill to deepen federal waterways, a total of almost half a billion dollars, rather than wait years for funds. To berth post-Panamax ships, ports typically need 50 feet of depth — there are only four on the U.S. East Coast. Smaller facilities are looking for an edge to gain a bigger piece of the $4.6 trillion in economic activity generated at U.S. ports last year, a quarter of the gross domestic product.”

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