After speaking on a panel at the INTERMODAL Expo in California last week, Argelis Moreno de Ducreux, the Leader of the Panama Canal’s Liner Services Segment, will be travelling back to the United States for the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals Edge 2018 conference later this month in Tennessee. Apart from the opportunity to reconnect with industry figures, attending both conferences has enabled the ACP to further highlight the waterway’s strong performance and continued leadership. In between her trips overseas, we spoke with Argelis to hear more about the waterway’s recent successes in container shipping, and what lies ahead.
Can you talk to us about the recent performance of the container segment at the Canal?
The Canal’s various vessel segments have all been growing steadily, but the container segment has seen especially strong performance since the completion of the Expanded Canal in 2016. Since its opening, the average containership size transiting the waterway increased by 28.0 percent increase in only two years of operation. In August, the Canal set a new monthly container milestone, accounting for 14.4 million tons (PC/UMS) after facilitating the transit of 233 container vessels. Over the next few years, we expect container volumes crossing the Canal will continue to rise by about 6% annually, which will only strengthen our role in the global marketplace and allow for the movement of more goods from countries around the world.
How has the Expanded Canal’s impact reached beyond Panama’s borders?
The benefits of the Expanded Canal extend far and wide. Take the United States’ East Coast ports, for example, which have experienced record-setting growth thanks to the improvements at the Canal. Not only have ports been able to import greater quantities of cargo, but they are investing millions in dredging, construction and new equipment purchases to capitalize on the increased flow. The Port of Baltimore, for instance, has reported a 14 percent increase in the growth of its container business since the completion of the Expanded Canal, and the Port of Charleston set a container transit record in August thanks to an influx of ships from Asia through the Canal locks. It doesn’t stop there. The Port of Miami is investing millions of dollars to increase terminal fluidity to accommodate growing business, and the Port of Philadelphia has spent much of 2018 undergoing and planning new construction. In addition to updated ship berths and new warehouses in the works, it recently acquired two harbor cranes that are among the largest in the world.
Beyond the East Coast, have you seen other areas reap the benefits of the Expanded Canal?
Absolutely. Traffic across the Canal impacts much of the U.S. economy, so many areas across the American Midwest, for instance, have felt the positive outcomes of the Expansion. Manufacturers and food suppliers in the region – who deliver corn, soybeans and wheat, among other things – send shipments down the Mississippi and through the Canal to Asia. The bigger ships these suppliers can now use has resulted in lower shipment costs for manufacturers and more competitive products and prices as a result. This is true for shippers everywhere – and it has been demonstrated in economies across the world.
Beyond that, the Expanded Canal has effectively reshaped global trade routes. With the Expanded Canal complete, our locks can accommodate 96 percent of the world’s containerships – which has benefitted and increased options for local ports around the world, who now choose the Panama Canal as the desired passage. So far, we have welcomed 16 new liner services to transit the Expanded Canal, and we expect shipping lines will continue to reroute services and rely on the Canal as they take advantage of the economies of scale offered by the Expansion.
Source: Panama Canal Authority