The Panama Canal expansion: business as usual or game changer?



Paul Stott, Senior Lecturer & Dr. Peter Wright, Senior Lecturer, School of Marine Science and Technology, Newcastle University, Newcastle, UK


The question has to be posed in the right way

Ever since the development of panamax vessels around fifty years ago, the beam limitation of 32.3 meters imposed by the Panama Canal’s locks has presented a fixed constraint for the design of ships, defining a parameter that is etched into the minds of naval architects. This constraint is set to disappear with the opening of the expanded canal in 2014, but is this likely to lead to a change in ship dimensions?

In the Port Focus section of edition 51 of this journal, Dr. Jean-Paul Rodrigue and Dr. Theo Notteboom considered the question: the Panama Canal expansion- business as usual or gamechanger? They considered this question from the point of view of trade development, noting the ‘divergence of opinion’ on the subject due to the complexity of trade and the number of variables and feedback loops involved. Research by the authors of this article has looked at this question from a different perspective – what effect may the expansion have on ship design?…

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