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From Site Selection magazine, July 2016

Ports Worldwide are in Growth Mode as Panama Canal Expansion Opens for Business

The Neopanamax container vessel COSCO Shipping Panama set sail from the Greek Port of Piraeus in early June on its way to Panama to make history as the first to transit the Expanded Panama Canal in late June.
Photo courtesy of the Panama Canal Authority


After years of construction, labor disputes, and enough predictions and analysis to fill half a post-Panamax ship, the first vessels were scheduled to transit the expanded Panama Canal beginning in late June. And the first of the first embodied what global industrial development is all about.

Chosen by lottery, the first ship — Cosco Shipping Panama — was originally christened Andronikos, but renamed by China COSCO Shipping to pay respect to the people of Panama and for the honor of the inaugural transit. “Coincidentally, the ship was built in Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries Co., Ltd, the same company that constructed the valves that control the flow of water through the new locks of the Canal,” announced a release from the Panama Canal Authority. The ship set sail from the Port of Piraeus in Greece — a place undergoing its own expansion, even in the midst of that country’s financial meltdown.

The Panama Canal Expansion Program is the largest construction project undertaken in the waterway since its opening in 1914.

While existing locks at the Panama Canal allow the passage of vessels that can carry up to 5,000 TEUs, after the expansion, post-Panamax vessels will be able to transit through the Canal with up to 13,000/14,000 TEUs.
Photo courtesy of the Panama Canal Authority

So, in one fell swoop, a signature voyage involved Panama, China, South Korea and Greece. The Neopanamax containership has a container carrying capacity of 9,472 TEUs.

“Over a hundred years ago, the SS Ancon made history as the first vessel to transit the Panama Canal,” said Panama Canal Administrator Jorge L. Quijano at the ship’s departure from Greece in June. “In a few weeks, COSCO Shipping Panama, the Panama Canal, and the people of Panama will change the face of global shipping and international commerce.”

There are plenty of other slots ports are hoping to fill — some directly related to the Canal’s expansion, and some not.

The Panama Canal Expansion Program is the largest construction project undertaken in the waterway since its opening in 1914. Considered and analyzed for a decade with more than 100 studies, construction on the first-ever expansion began in 2007. The project doubles the waterway’s cargo capacity. “Since Neopanamax vessels can now take advantage of the Canal’s vast benefits, new routes, liner services and other maritime changes are expected to emerge,” said the Authority.

On April 18, 2016, the Panama Canal began accepting transit bookings for Neopanamax vessels for commercial transits through the expanded Canal, will offer four additional slots per day for Neopanamax vessels in addition to the existing 25 slots for the existing Canal.

But there are plenty of other slots ports are hoping to fill — some directly related to the Canal’s expansion, and some not:

While the world’s top 10 ports saw declines in trade volume by posting -0.3 percent and -0.6 percent, respectively, the Port of Incheon posted an 8.6-percent increase.
Photo courtesy of Incheon Port Authority
  • In Japan, the Port of Hitachinaka just opened a new terminal. Located on the Pacific coast of Japan about 100 kilometers (62 miles) northeast of Tokyo, the port is the production hub for Hitachi and Komatsu, two major customers of Norwegian/Swedish shipping line Wallenius Wilhemsen Lines (WWL).
  • CMA CGM S.A. (CMA CGM) and PSA Singapore Terminals Pte. Ltd. (PSA) announced in June 2016 they will form joint venture company CMA CGM-PSA Lion Terminal Pte. Ltd. (CPLT) to operate and use four mega container berths at Pasir Panjang Terminal Phases 3 and 4 in Singapore. “CMA CGM is pleased to announce this important partnership with PSA. “It is a significant step, demonstrating the ongoing importance of Singapore to our strategy, and delivering on our commitment to making Singapore the Asian hub for the Group,” said Rodolphe Saadé, vice chairman of CMA CGM Group.
  • Incheon New Port, built over nine years to accommodate container cargoes in a bid to keep up with the increase in trade with China and other Asian countries as well as the trend of favoring large-sized vessels, celebrated its first anniversary in June 2016. While the world’s top 10 ports saw declines in trade volume by posting -0.3 percent and -0.6 percent, respectively, the Port of Incheon posted an 8.6-percent increase. The import of fresh foods and refrigerated items is expected to increase further when Incheon Port Authority (IPA) completes the construction of an LNG-based cold storage cluster in the area neighboring Incheon New Port in 2018. Two more quays will join the existing two quays next year, as more scheduled services continue to call on the port. “Incheon New Port can provide a direct route connecting North America and Europe to the huge market of the Seoul metropolitan area, helping carriers and shippers and shipping save costs for transportation,” said Yoo Chang-keun, president of IPA, in June 2016.
  • In Sweden, the Ports of Stockholm report that a new pier is now complete at the Port of Kapellskär, part of a total rebuilding of the port expected to be completed before the end of 2016, in order to accommodate larger vessels and meet market demand. The location of the port, in combination with the short approach fairway, makes it possible to rapidly transport goods and passengers between Sweden and Finland, the Baltic States and Russia. The three ports, in Stockholm, Kapellskär and Nynäshamn, are strategically located in the heart of Sweden’s largest consumer area, and Stockholm is one of the most rapidly growing cities in Europe.
  • Colliers International reports an upsurge in spec industrial space around Charleston, South Carolina, where the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) has seen record containerized cargo levels, handling 1.6 million TEUs since July 2015. The success of its Inland Port Greer site drove the SCPA in April to announce plans for a second inland port in Dillon, near I-95. A harbor deepening project to 52 feet, motivated by the Panama Canal expansion, will make the harbor the deepest on the East Coast by 2020.
  • In May, the US Commerce Department invited comments from the public on how US seaports can work better with their supply chain partners to reduce congestion, become more efficient, and improve America’s competitiveness. The request is part of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker’s 21st Century Port Competitiveness Initiative. A best practices report comprising feedback from the public and from stakeholders at a series of port roundtables (beginning in Los Angeles in May) will be published in December 2016.
  • The Q1 2016 Industrial Market Outlook from Colliers International reported, “Charleston and Savannah, two port markets looking to take advantage of the Panama Canal expansion, led the nation in absorption as a percent of inventory ... The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach recorded a robust first quarter with the Port of Los Angeles posting the strongest quarter in its 109-year history. The Ports of New York/New Jersey, Seattle/Tacoma, Virginia, Oakland, and Jacksonville all posted calendar year-over-year gains in the first quarter.”

In the 2016-2020 Port Planned Infrastructure Investment Survey, released in April 2016 by the American Association of Port Authorities member ports reported they and their private-sector partners plan to spend $154.8 billion on port-related freight and passenger infrastructure over the next five years.

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