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Panama Canal preparations under full sail

The Panama Canal expansion - expected to be complete by 2014 - has seaports throughout the hemisphere readying for a new competitive landscape. For most, that means offering value-added services designed to move inbound goods faster than ever before. Here’s where the preparations currently stand.

The Expansion of the Panama Canal (Third Set of Locks Project) is a project, proposed by the Panama Canal Authority (ACP), that will double the capacity of the Panama Canal by 2014 by allowing more and larger ships to transit.

By Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
February 24, 2011

While moving such massive mountains of beans is a significant port services achievement, the Port of New York/New Jersey may soon be using “levitation” to solve one of its most vexing problems. Following a comprehensive review of numerous alternatives, the Port Authority announced its solution to the Bayonne Bridge clearance issue—raising the bridge’s roadbed to approximately 215 feet to increase the existing 151-foot navigational clearance restriction.

The modification and rehabilitation solution is designed to fix the bridge clearance issue, which will pose a navigational problem for larger ships trying to access the Port of New York/New Jersey after the Panama Canal expands.

According to the Port Authority, the “Raise the Roadway” project will involve reconstruction of the existing approaches, ramps, and main span roadway to a higher elevation that would allow the crossing to accommodate larger ships. The alternative, as compared with others reviewed to replace the bridge, is the most cost effective, and has the fewest environmental and neighborhood impacts.

Port Authority staff is currently drilling down on engineering issues for the proposed solution, including roadway design, lane configuration, and upgrades to the existing 10-foot-wide lanes, providing median dividers and shoulders, and adding additional safety and security measures. The Port Authority reports that it will also work with its regional partners to initiate and expedite the environmental regulatory process. ?

“The bridge is critical to the circle of mobility in the region,” says Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith. “It has become an obstacle to safe navigation in the port so something had to be done. The Port Authority has selected the least disruptive, least expensive and quickest option.”

But will it be quick enough to stem the flow of goods being drawn to the southern rivals of Jacksonville and Savannah?

Southeast is booming
According to Jock O’Connell, Beacon Economics’ international trade adviser, the nation’s supply chains are being reconfigured due to a dynamic shift in workforce populations.

“Most U.S. multinationals are moving from the West and Southwest to the deep South and Gulf regions,” he says. “And that means that the cargo flows are going to be directed to ports in the region with the best infrastructure and services.”

Container throughput and volume figures released late last year by the Jacksonville Port Authority support this contention. According to Chris Kauffmann, who served as the port’s interim executive director, the gateway moved a record number of containers in fiscal year 2010—the second consecutive year of container growth for the seaport—and marked a decade of consistent growth in earnings. “The momentum is building and we look for more positive news in the new fiscal year,” he says.

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 .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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