When it opens in early 2015, a deeper, wider Panama Canal with two new flights of triple locks, one at each ocean entrance, will double existing canal capacity and facilitate the passage of so-called post-Panamax ships through the 80 km (51-mile) waterway. These new cargo leviathans -- the length of an aircraft carrier and the height of a 14-storey building -- are capable of carrying up to 12,000 containers or about a million flat-screen TVs all with a crew of just a dozen men. The arrival of these sea-going behemoths has also unleashed a tsunami of transportation and logistics infrastructure upgrades within the New World.
PortMiami is turning up the heat with a full-court press to welcome such mega cargo ships to Southern Florida. It has budgeted US$2 billion to leverage its advantage as the closest, major US East Coast port to the expanded canal.
Almost half of the total is dedicated to the PortMiami Tunnel Project that will link port facilities directly to the US Interstate highway system. Intermodal connections will also benefit from a freight-rail restoration initiative. The port itself will be upgraded by dredging the harbour to a depth of 50 feet, adding four new, super post-Panamax cranes and a strengthened bulkhead and wharf system. Currently, the next closest 50-ft-draft harbour is Norfolk ,Va., 1,750 km (947 nautical miles) to the north.
In addition, the US Army Corps of Engineers has called for enormous investments to modernize all supporting inland transportation infrastructure from highways, bridges, tunnels, railways and airports to inland shipping facilities.
In Canada, the Port of Halifax is already prepared. Says Patrick Bohan, the port’s business development manager: “Halifax harbour features a 55-foot draft at low water which gives us an advantage over many US Eastern seaboard ports. Currently about 5% of our volume goes to US destinations by rail, truck or feeder ships.”
Still, the port is finishing up a C$100-million upgrade to the Halterm container port to provide more dock-side rail access and increasing the number of gantry cranes to eight. It is also modernizing the Ocean Terminal, adding 1,500 feet of general cargo dock space in Richmond and increasing terminal assets at Sheet Harbour to handle dry-bulk and project cargo.