Wider Panama Canal boost­ing Chi­nese ship­pers, US East Coast ports

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICA - Con­tact the writer at williamhen­nelly@ chi­nadai­lyusa.com

The ex­panded Panama Canal is shap­ing up as a win-win sit­u­a­tion for Chi­nese com­pa­nies and the econ­omy of the US East Coast.

Some en­ti­ties that stand to ben­e­fit are the con­glom­er­ate Ever­green Group of Tai­wan and COSCO SHIPPING of Shang­hai, and PortMi­ami in Florida, now that larger cargo ships can tra­verse a deeper Panama Canal and reach the Eastern Se­aboard.

“We wel­come the ex­pan­sion of Ever­green Line at PortMi­ami,” Mi­ami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez said last week. “PortMi­ami’s more than $1 bil­lion of com­pleted in­fra­struc­ture projects are pay­ing off!”

The Ever­green Line has a new ser­vice that will stop at Sin­ga­pore, Hong Kong, Chi­wan port in Shen­zhen, Shang­hai, Ningbo port in Zhe­jiang prov­ince, and Man­zanillo, Mex­ico, be­fore cross­ing the Panama Canal and docking in Houston, Mo­bile, Alabama, Mi­ami, Jack­sonville, Florida, and Dur­ban, South Carolina.

Ever­green Line re­cently up­graded the sizes of its Fast East con­tainer ships, more than dou­bling ca­pac­ity to 8,452 shipping con­tain­ers each, re­ported the Jack­sonville Busi­ness Jour­nal. They can move as much as two tra­di­tional Pana­max ships but use 40 per­cent less fuel.

PortMi­ami Di­rec­tor and CEO Juan M. Kuryla said cargo lines tran­sit­ing the port can reach 70 per­cent of the US mar­ket within four days, and there is a tun­nel di­rectly connected to the US In­ter­state High­way Sys­tem.

On July 12, the Ever­green Ever Lam­bent con­tainer ship be­came the first ves­sel to tra­verse the ex­panded Panama Canal en route to Bal­ti­more, Mary­land.

Bal­ti­more ex­pects its port to ben­e­fit the most from the ex­panded canal, said James White, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Mary­land Port Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“I think the tide has turned for us in a pos­i­tive way,” White told the Bal­ti­more Sun.

On June 26, the COSCO Shipping Panama, haul­ing 9,472 con­tain­ers, made the first of­fi­cial voy­age through the ex­panded canal, which was up­graded at a cost of $5.25 bil­lion. The ship had set sail from the Greek port of Pi­raeus two weeks prior.

“The ex­pan­sion of the Panama Canal, a crit­i­cal shipping lane in the world that links the Pa­cific and At­lantic oceans, will have a ma­jor im­pact on var­i­ous shipping mar­kets, in­clud­ing those from the East Coast of Amer­ica to the Far East, from Europe to the West Coast of Amer­ica, and from the East to the West Coast of Amer­ica,” COSCO Chair­man Xu Lirong said that day.

The gi­ant Maersk Line is rerout­ing its Asia-East Coast ser­vice through the new canal.

“Us­ing the new Panama Canal locks, Maersk Line is able to sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce the tran­sit days from Asian to North Amer­i­can ports. … The tran­sit times from Shang­hai and Ningbo to Newark, Nor­folk and Bal­ti­more are now five to 10 days faster,” the Dan­ish com­pany said in a July 21 re­lease.

A liq­ue­fied nat­u­ral gas tanker loaded on the US Gulf Coast and bound for Asian mar­kets could cut its travel dis­tance by about 5,000 nau­ti­cal miles and seven to nine days, ac­cord­ing to Martin Houston, co-founder of Tel­lurian.

The Bos­ton Con­sult­ing Group and C.H. Robin­son, a trans­porta­tion lo­gis­tics com­pany, es­ti­mated last year that as much as 10 per­cent of the con­tainer traf­fic from East Asia to the US could shift to US East Coast ports in­stead of land­ing on the West Coast and fin­ish­ing the jour­ney by truck or rail.

That would reroute vol­ume “equiv­a­lent to build­ing a new port roughly dou­ble the size of the ports in Sa­van­nah and Charleston”, the firms said.

The Port Au­thor­ity of New York and New Jersey said that a $1.3 bil­lion project to raise the 85-year-old Bay­onne Bridge will en­able ships to pass un­der the span by late 2017.

“The old Panama Canal was an im­ped­i­ment to de­ploy­ing ships to the East Coast of the United States from Asia,” said CEO James I. New­some III of the South Carolina Ports Au­thor­ity, which is plan­ning to dredge Charleston, South Carolina’s 45-foot-deep har­bor to 52 feet.

New­some said that if Asian cargo bound for Char­lotte, North Carolina, landed in Los An­ge­les, it would cost $2,000 to send it across the US by rail. If it landed in Charleston, it would cost only $600 by truck.

The Panama Canal, which the US fi­nanced and en­gi­neered, was com­pleted in 1914. The US turned over sovereignty to Panama in 1999.

The canal’s cargo ca­pac­ity has dou­bled, and it has a third lane to ac­com­mo­date larger ships that can carry about 14,000 con­tain­ers, up from 5,000.

It hasn’t been all smooth sail­ing, though. On Mon­day, the COSCO Panama, hit a wall in a new canal lane, the third in­ci­dent since the June cer­e­mony. Amy He in New York and The As­so­ci­ated Press con­trib­uted to this story.

XIN­HUA

The COSCO SHIPPING Panama makes its en­trance dur­ing the in­au­gu­ra­tion cer­e­mony for the ex­panded Panama Canal in Panama City, on June 26.

NEWYORK JOUR­NAL Wil­liam Hen­nelly

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