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Saturday, May 25 2019 @ 03:28 AM UTC

Panama Canal Authority, Port of New Orleans renew alliance

Canal ExpansionJeff Berman -- Logistics Management PANAMA CITY, Panama—The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) and the Port of New Orleans said this week they have renewed their Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which has been in effect since 2003. This renewal comes at a time when the Port of New Orleans is focused on its recently-announced $1.04 billion 22020 growth Master Plan, which it said is partially driven by the Panama Canal expansion that is expected to be completed by 2014 and open by early 2015. When the expansion is done, the Port of New Orleans said it will spur investment, increase trade and promote the All Water Route from Asia to the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts via the Panama Canal. After the expansion, the canal will accommodate vessels up to 160 feet wide and 1,200 feet long, with a 50-foot draft. The maximum size for container vessels will increase to 12,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs). (more)

“[The] renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding with the Port of New Orleans underscores our strong economic and commercial bonds,” said ACP Administrator/CEO Alberto Aleman Zubieta in a statement. “Our common vision informs our strategy and creates new value based on information sharing and collaboration. As we embark on the next phases of the Panama Canal expansion project, we remain committed to providing solutions to the long-term needs of the shipping and maritime community.”

The Port of New Orleans has been coordinating its capital investment plans with what has been occurring from a global trade perspective, much of which is focused around the Panama Canal, according to Chris Bonura, Port of New Orleans spokesman.

“The anticipation of the expanded canal—and what it means for shippers—is that this expansion presents an opportunity for the port to use all three coasts very effectively,” said Bonura. “We are probably not the only port in the Gulf Coast looking at the trends and seeing that it is a great opportunity both for us and for the flow of global commerce.”

Bonura added that the Port of New Orleans has traditionally done very well as a port that connects to markets further inland as a transshipment port. This is partially due to being in close proximity to the Mississippi River and all of its tributaries, as well as being served by six Class I railroads: CN, CSX, Norfolk Southern, BNSF, Kansas City Southern, and Union Pacific. These railroads are connected to the port through the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad, a publicly-owned and operated short-line, which prevents the port from having too many redundant rail lines at a locale where space is at a premium.

These factors, Bonura said, enable the port to efficiently move cargo throughout the Midwest region of the U.S. and he added that it can also be viewed as an “antidote” for congestion, as the port moves larger volumes of containerized cargo inland both east and west, as well as north and south.

The MoU’s ultimate objective is to building a better relationship and sharing information from capital planning and market opportunity standpoints, said Bonura. He added that roughly more than one-third of the Port of New Orleans’ containerized and breakbulk cargo—2.5 million tons—is coming from the Panama Canal. He said that the Panama Canal helps the port access the west coast of South America and Asia, and the port in turn reciprocally helps generate business for the canal.

“It is sort of a natural partnership; we have had a lot of contact with them in the past,” explained Bonura. “We want to move ahead and grow it.”

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