The Panama Canal, approximately 49 miles or 80 kilometers long between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, is undergoing a historic $5.25 billion expansion to build a new lane of traffic which will double capacity and enable longer, wider ships. Work is underway on the dredging, dry excavation and digging for the new locks, which operate as water elevators to lift the ships from sea level (the Pacific or the Atlantic) to the level of Gatun Lake (26 meters above sea level) to then sail the channel through the Continental Divide. The new locks will be able to transport ships that are 235 feet longer, 54 feet wider and able to carry nearly three times as many containers (12,600 twenty-foot equivalent units), while using less water than the existing locks.
So what could the Panama Canal expansion mean for Georgia and metro Atlanta? CEO of the Panama Canal Authority, Alberto Aleman Zubieta visited the Metro Atlanta Chamber on Aug. 24 and said, “The expansion of the Panama Canal is of huge importance, allowing larger ships to provide economies of scale that will benefit Georgia’s imports and exports.”
Key economic benefits for metro Atlanta include:
- Increased cargo volume and lower transportation costs – An estimated 25 percent of U.S. import freight volume will shift to the East Coast after the Panama Canal’s expansion, according to Jones Lang LaSalle. With the Port of Savannah being the fastest-growing and fourth largest container port in the nation, Georgia is well-positioned for even more container traffic growth. In preparation for 2014, the Georgia Ports Authority is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) to expand and deepen the Savannah harbor to 48 feet for accommodating larger ships. The larger the ship, the more containers that can be transported, resulting in lower transportation costs per unit for Georgia companies.
- More jobs – The Port of Savannah was directly responsible for 3,500 new transportation and logistics jobs in metro Atlanta in the past year. Expanded capacity at the Port of Savannah would mean more supporting positions necessary by local companies to manage their supply chain. It would also mean more companies that are port-dependent would select metro Atlanta and Georgia as a place to open new operations and create jobs.
Metro Atlanta Chamber President Sam A. Williams welcomed Panama Canal Authority CEO Alberto Aleman Zubieta as a guest speaker for the Supply Chain Leadership Council meeting on Aug. 24
for a video interview by Panama Canal Authority CEO Alberto Aleman Zubieta.