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Panama Canal expansion could help US cargo flow

Expansion of the Panama Canal and increases in all-water services to the US east coast will alleviate some of the pressure on the US west coast.

The Bulletin Panama

This view is expressed in a new study that has forecast North American container port demand nearly double in 10 years with most pressure falling on Pacific Coast ports. 

UK-based Ocean Shipping Consultants predicts demand to increase by up to 85 per cent to 85.7m TEU over 2005-15, and by a further 31 percent to 112.3m TEU over 2015-20.  Even an increased-risk/protectionist scenario, incorporating a significant downturn in GDP expansion over 2011-15, would yield a container port demand increase of 55 percent to 71.8m TEU over 2005-15, with 25 percent growth over 2015-20, to 89.7m TEU

In its report Containerport Markets in the Americas to 2020 OSC notes: "Growth in American containerport demand has accelerated in recent years.  This has been driven by the globalisation of the world economy and the rise of China as the world's manufacturing centre. Booming imports from Asia and the above-average economic growth of western US states have put particular pressure on ports on North America's Pacific seaboard."

But OSC says that there are concerns about the capacity of these ports and associated intermodal systems to handle continued long-term growth in demand although the expansion of Panama Canal capacity and increases in all-water services to the east coast will alleviate some of the pressure.  The development of ports on Mexico's Pacific seaboard and new intermodal connections into the US heartland could offer a further option OSC observes. 

 "However," says OSC, "future growth will continue to fall heavily on the US Pacific ports themselves.  Both expansion and increased productivity will be needed to boost container handling capacity.  Achieving these will depend on the resolution of environmental concerns and labour issues.

Republished with permission from The Bulletin Panama.

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