CSCMP conference examines Panama Canal’s future impact

“The most important detail to note is that we are on schedule and under budget,” declared ACP's Rodolfo Sabonge

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If some experts are correct, the Panama Canal expansion will transform global shipping and sourcing for generations to come. That was the thrust of a presentation given by Dr. Yossi Sheffi?, Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Rodolfo Sabonge, corporate planning and marketing director for Panama Canal Authority (ACP). Both were speaking at a general session of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professional’s annual conference in San Diego this week.

“Accomodating larger vessels is only part of the story,” said Sheffi. “What we are really talking about, is the creation of a logistical hub offering value-added services that will be used by the entire hemisphere.”

Titled “The Impact of the Panama Canal on Global Shipping,” the session was to feature ACP Administrator/CEO Alberto Alemán Zubieta. While it was unclear why he did not appear, Sobange was called upon to explain some of the finer details of the expansion scheduled to open in 2014.

“The most important detail to note,” he declared, “is that we are on schedule and under budget.”

He described how this complex and civil engineering “mega-project” will remake the Panamanian economy, too, suggesting that it may become a Latin American superpower.

“We have great expectations regarding the transloading potential here, too,” he said. “And we fully believe that for shipping, we will be the Rotterdam of the region.”

The Dutch model is being made of in other regards, as well. Indeed, earlier this month, Alberto Alemán Zubieta paid a visit to the Netherlands to visit Sliedrecht shipyard. There, with considerable fanfare, he launched the QUIBIÁN I, a new cutter suction dredge custom-built by IHC Beaver Dredgers for the Panama Canal’s expansion.

The QUIBIÁN I, named after a 15th century indigenous Panamanian leader whose name signifies resolution and unity, is expected to arrive in Panama City by the second quarter of 2011. The dredge will be used in the Panama Canal’s expansion project until its completion in 2014. Subsequent usage will include maintenance and other modernization projects for the waterway.

In the meantime, Panama is addressing pricing concerns through the transition. As reported in LM last June, ACP has modified rates for container, dry bulk, liquid bulk, vehicle carriers, reefers, passenger, general cargo and other key segments. Specifically, the ACP will calculate container segment tolls with a slight price adjustment to the capacity charge, and an additional new charge that would apply to the number of loaded containers aboard the vessel at the time of transit.

The newly approved pricing structure includes one amendment to the original proposal, which delays the implementation of the reefer segment increase on the portion applicable to the PC/UMS tons, from January 2011 to April 2011. All other segment pricing modifications will go into effect in January.

About the Author

Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

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