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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

And now that the Port of Jacksonville has former Federal Maritime Commissioner (FMC) A. Paul Anderson leading the team, a focus on services should also be key. Prior to serving on the FMC, Anderson served as a senior fellow of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee at the U.S. House of Representatives.

The services foundation is firmly in place already, too. The Port Authority has 18 container cranes, on-dock refrigerated and freezer warehousing, and Foreign Trade Zone status. To help rush goods to market, shippers can take advantage of Jacksonville’s location at the crossroads of three major railroads (CSX, Norfolk Southern and Florida East Coast Railway) and three interstate highways (I-95, I-10 and 1-75).

Georgia Ports Authority’s (GPA) Executive Director Curtis Foltz is bullish on 2011, too, promoting Savannah’s services and strategic advantages: “The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project will deepen the river from its current 42-foot depth to as much as 48 feet,” he says, noting that the project is widely supported by Georgia’s state leadership, which has appropriated $105 million of construction funds to date.

In preparation for the Panama Canal Expansion, the GPA has embarked on an aggressive expansion and modernization plan to more efficiently accommodate newer, larger vessels that are already calling on the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts. These vessels like the CMA CGM Figaro, which called on Savannah late last year, offer more capacity and lower cost per container compared to current Panamax vessels.

As the fastest growing and fourth largest container port in the nation, and strategically positioned with two Class I rail providers on a single terminal, the Port of Savannah is responsible for moving 8.3 percent of the U.S. containerized cargo volume and more than 18 percent of all East Coast container trade in 2010.

The Port of Savannah also boasts a uniquely balanced export-import ratio, and handled 12 percent of all U.S. containerized exports last year.

Gulf upstarts
Having proved its resilience in the face of Hurricane Katrina and the recent BP spill, the Port of New Orleans is ready to demonstrate it can compete with some of its regional neighbors for more cargo in the future.

“The port is in the process of investing more than $100 million into facilities,” says port President and CEO Gary LaGrange. “Some $67 million is being spent on recovery projects either completed, under construction or in the design phase, and another $44 million is currently being spent on capital projects,” he says.

Included in those numbers, says LaGrange, are two new container gantry cranes scheduled for delivery in early 2011, and expansion to the Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal, a new Riverfront Cold Storage Terminal, the complete refurbishment of the Julia Street Cruise Terminal, and a new modern dredge.

In step with the world economic climate and the weak dollar, New Orleans continues to see gains in exports, as well. Total exports rose 55 percent so far in 2010, with chemicals up 74.3 percent. Overall, breakbulk exports are up some 15.3 percent, while container exports rose 61 percent.

The small but impressive Port of Corpus Christi is also making a serious bid for more reefer business this year. “The port’s business development team continues its pursuit of refrigerated cargo,” says executive director John LaRue.

The port’s cold storage facility is a 100,000-square-foot refrigerated warehouse, offering chilled and frozen space a short 60-foot distance from dockside with enclosed, temperature-controlled, rail and truck loading docks.

Strategically located on the western Gulf of Mexico, Corpus Christi is the sixth largest port in the U.S. in total tonnage. With a straight, 45-foot deep channel, the port provides quick access to the Gulf, the nation’s inland waterway system, and delivers access to overland transportation with on-site and direct connections to three Class I railroads and interstate and state highways.

Up until recently, these advantages—as impressive as they sound—didn’t really attract that much freight, however. What’s changed? A surge in demand for U.S. cotton. Floods in Australia, ruined much of that nation’s export crop just when consumers in Asia were clamoring for more apparel, and linen products. As a consequence, the commodity has become one this nation’s newest success stories, demonstrating that if a port aligns itself with “a federal agenda” on exports, it can seize the moment for reinvention.

For more news and information on the Ocean Freight industry, visit our Critical Topics page on Ocean Freight

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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