Port of Miami and Port Everglades Poised to Benefit from Panama Canal Expansion
Sunday, June 25 marks the historic opening of the expanded Panama Canal. The first mega ship will enter the New Agua locks on the Atlantic side of the Canal and make the crossing more than 9 years after the widening and dredging of the canal began. New locks were also constructed so as to accommodate the larger ships carrying bigger and heavier cargo. Capacity of the ships passing through the canal will increase from about 5,000 containers to more than 13,000 containers per ship.
But where will these so called Panamax ships load and unload? Ports all up and down the east coast of the United States have been vying for the business since expansion plans were first announced. 2 South Florida ports are ready or nearly ready to be major competitors for the shipping business.
Port of Miami began expansion almost immediately. The harbor has already been dredged and its depth increased from about 44 feet to 50-52 feet. The shipping channel has been widened. But this was only the beginning of the port’s 3-prong strategy to capture Panama Canal traffic. The Port Tunnel, the $1 billion project designed to get truck traffic off of downtown streets and more quickly on to the highway opened last year. And, the rail link to the FEC rail yard is nearing completion.
Meanwhile, Port Everglades has not sat idle. The Ft. Lauderdale port is awaiting final approval to deepen its channel. The Army Corps of Engineers has approved the economic and environmental report. Final legislative approval is expected later this year. The Port hopes to begin dredging by 2018 with completion by 2022. The Port can already handle Panamax ships, but not at full capacity. So, some business is already coming to Port Everglades.
In addition, Port Everglades already has on dock intermodal container transfer facilities with FEC Railroad. With this, the Port expects to eliminate over 180,000 truck trips by 2029. On-going construction will double the number of berths in coming years and road improvement with direct access to highways is complete.
Of course, the real estate industry will benefit from increased shipping traffic. More industrial space will be required. And as shipping companies use South Florida as a hub, office space will also be on the wish list. Overall, the Panama Canal expansion should be great for business in South Florida.