Are global ports getting ready for the new Panama Canal?



René Kolman, secretary general, International Association of Dredging Companies, the Netherlands


In the last 25 years the maritime traffic industry has changed tremendously. The exponential increase of cargo traffic between the various continents has motivated shipping lines to build vessels with ever larger dimensions. The Panama Canal and its locks were designed for vessels with maximum dimensions of 294.1 meters (965 feet) long, 32.3 meters (106 feet) wide with a maximum draught of 12.40 meters (39.5 feet), the so-called Panamax vessels. Vessels that surpass these dimensions, the so-called post-Panamax vessels, cannot actually transit the Canal.

As a result of the increased number of post-Panamax vessels and the growing demand for Canal transits (according to market studies a gradual increase of 40 percent in demand for Canal transits of up to 19,600 a year by 2025 is expected), the operator of the Canal, the Autoridad del Canal de Panamá (ACP), decided to give priority to increasing the Canal’s capacity as well as making it possible for post-Panamax vessels to transit the Canal.

Despite the ongoing financial and economic crisis in Europe and the US, dredging works for widening and deepening the Panama Canal continue full speed ahead. These improvements will bring the Canal up to the requirements of the present-day post-Panamax fleets. Simultaneously it will put demands on ports that are not yet up to post-Panamax requirements…

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