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Perceived impact of the Panama Canal Expansion

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  • The Panama Canal Expansion Program is a US$5.2 billion project that will construct a new lane of traffic to double the waterway's capacity and satisfy the increasing demand of world maritime trade.

Jorge L. Quijano, the Administrator for the Panama Canal Authority (ACP), discussed the role of the Panama Canal expansion will play in trade between Asian and Latin America at the Sea Asia Conference 2013 in Singapore earlier this week.

The expansion will have “significant impact on many segments of the market,” Quijano said. “Most importantly, it will foster the growth of foreign trade of user countries through the Panama route.”

The PCA intends to bolster the Panama Canal’s strategic position as a transshipment hub and business centre for Central and South America, spurring economic and commercial developments in the region.

“In the future, we foresee trade growing between Asia and Latin America, where Panama also has a significant competitive advantage due to its unique geographical position at the nexus of the Americas,” Quijano stated. “With East Asia sourcing more and more raw materials out of Latin America, in particular coal and iron ore, the expanded Canal will offer enormous new opportunities.”

“In the case of containerships, carriers will be able to deploy vessels of up to 13,200 TEUs through the Canal, allowing carriers to reduce their operating costs and carbon emissions, as well as provide a more timely delivery of goods,” Quijano added.

The project will include the widening and deepening of the Atlantic and Pacific approach channel to the canal through the construction of new locks 427 metres long, 55 metres wide and 18.3 metres deep. Their construction calls for an excavation of more than 50 million cubic meters of materials along a 6.1 kilometre stretch of the canal.

This will ultimately allow ships of up to 366m in length to pass through the Panama Canal safely and efficiently.

Other objectives of the project include the reduction of freshwater consumed in its operation, sustaining growth in tonnage transiting the canal, as well as increasing the overall profitability of the ACP.

Currently six months behind its eight-year project schedule, Quijano estimates that “commercial transits [will begin] mid-2015.

Ben Oliver Briceno, Staff writer at Port Technology International.

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