Can U.S. Measure Up to Panama Canal Expansion?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Panama Canal expansion will bring higher volumes, larger vessels, new trading patterns, trends analysed in a new report.

As the completion of the Panama Canal expansion nears, a number of concerns have surfaced regarding the ability of U.S. ports to keep up with the more aggressive port infrastructure progress witnessed overseas. Colliers International released its 'North American Port Analysis Report', which highlights the rapid growth of intermodalism – the study of various transportation modes such as seaport/ship and rail as interconnected rather than isolated – and the need for significant investment in U.S. ports Post-Panamax, or post-Panama Canal expansion.

Key findings include:

    •    Intermodalism: In the past 55 years, intermodalism has advanced from the equivalent of the ice age to the space age. This concept is vital to the success of the global supply chain.
    •    Post-Panamax Prep: Four East Coast ports will be ready to handle post-Panamax ships by 2015, including Baltimore (2013), Miami (2014), New York (2015) and Norfolk (ready).  In addition, four West Coast ports are already post-Panamax ready, including Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland and Seattle.
    •    Funding Port Infrastructure: The U.S. ranks only 23rd globally. Multi-billion dollar investment is required for North American ports to meet the demands of Post-Panamax container traffic by 2030, when 60 to 70 percent of the world's container fleet will be 18-22 containers wide.  Currently, only eight U.S. ports are on track to be Post-Panamax ready by 2015.
    •    Port Activity: The U.S. is far behind other countries in terms of port activity, and globally does not rank among the top 10 busiest ports. Six of the world's 10 busiest container ports are in China, and the busiest port, in Shanghai, handles 29 million twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) containers. In comparison, the busiest port in the U.S. is Los Angeles/Long Beach, which handles 14 million TEUs.
    •    Risky Business: Any change in business presents risks, and Colliers has identified several for the U.S. ports in the foreseeable future: overheated port competition, environmental inaction, labor strikes, slowing global GDP, and state budget crises.  
    •    Container Traffic: For the first time since World War II, container traffic growth on the East coast has surpassed that of the West coast. This is in large part due to emergent, strong manufacturing companies moving to the Southeast and Midwest.

In the report, Colliers has also initiated the 2012 Port Awards to recognize the top 10 North American ports.  For example:
    •    Most Irreplaceable: Port of Houston
    •    Jumping Hurdles in a New York Minute: The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey
    •    The Comeback Kid: Jacksonville Port Authority
    •    The Up-and-Comer: Alabama State Port Authority

The 13-page report is available in .PDF here.


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