Expansion of the Panama Canal is currently underway with an anticipated completion date of early 2016. The expansion will include 11-story locks and access channels connecting the 50 mile canal between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
The expansion of the Panama Canal has spurred the construction of a new generation of mega-cargo ships to replace the relatively smaller and less cost efficient cargo ships currently in use. The mega-cargo ships will have the capacity to carry 13,000 standard 20-foot containers, approximately three times the capacity of current cargo ships in use.
Alberto Aleman, former head of the Panama Canal Authority said, “If you have a port today and don’t have the capacity to handle the new ships. Pretty soon you will be without ships or must be content to be a small port where older smaller ships call.”
Mark J. Baker, Director of South Florida Container Terminals said, “Shipping lines already want to bring bigger ships into Miami.” Juan Kuryla, Director of PortMiami, said, “The bigger the ships, the more cargo, the more jobs.”
Florida has 15 seaports; however, approximately 45 percent of the containerized cargo consumed in Florida arrives from ports in other states. A large number of containerized cargo destined for South Florida arrive from Savannah, Ga., the second largest container port on the east coast. The cargo is transported from Savannah either by rail or truck. Juan Kuryla would like that cargo offloaded from cargo ships directly at PortMiami.
Great Lakes Dredge & Dock is the company that is widening and deepening the Miami harbor so it can handle the mega-cargo ships. Absent any unforeseen delays, Great Lakes Dredge & Dock should complete its’ by mid-2015, in time for the opening of the expanded Panama Canal.
PortMiami is deepening its harbor from 44 feet to approximately 53 feet at a cost of 1.3 billion, funded through state, local and federal sources. In addition, the recently completed port tunnel was constructed to speed truck traffic and a rail link to the FCC rail yard was completed as part of the strategy to boost cargo and improve logistic efficiency.
Juan Kuryla has said, “The dredge is essential to the port’s future growth. It’s just so critical. We’ll be the only port at 50 feet south of Norfolk. These are improvements that should be good for the next 20 to 25 years.”
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