Friday, May 6, 2016

Will New Panama Canal Boost East Coast Ports?

Maratime Executive: The Panama Canal was not the only bottleneck between Asia's factories and East Coast markets. The Bayonne Bridge spanning the tidal strait between New York and New Jersey is a big one. Ships plying the East Coast visit more than one port, but all stop in New York, which accounts for 40 percent of the container traffic for the Eastern United States. If a ship cannot unload part of its cargo in New York, it does not make economic sense for it to travel to the East Coast at all, shippers said. “New York is one of the main gateways to the Midwest and eastern Canada,” said Angel Mavares, head of marine operations for the Americas at Maersk (MAERSKb.CO), the world’s biggest carrier. “It’s a major obstacle if the largest market on the East Coast doesn’t have the scale to handle larger ships.” In anticipation of the Panama Canal improvements, the New York New Jersey Port Authority announced a $1.3 billion plan in 2010 to raise the bridge. But was delayed a year until late 2017 because of unanticipated complexities and a couple of bad winters. Some of the biggest carriers, including Maersk, Hapag Lloyd AG (HLAG.DE), and Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL), a unit of Orient Overseas International Ltd (0316.HK), said they have no plans to change routes when the expanded Panama Canal opens. "At the end of the day, the infrastructure's just not there," said Gerry Wang, chief executive of Seaspan Corp (SSW.N), the world's largest lessor of container ships. Because the U.S. Navy dredged Norfolk, Virginia, some years ago, that port is ready for big ships, as it Miami, which spent $1 billion on dredging, rail and other improvements."