Panama Canal Expansion Project (Finally) Completed

Project Opens up Opportunities for Norfolk and other East Coast Ports

The Panama Canal Expansion Project, which began in 2007, is finally completed. This may open up opportunities for East Coast ports to take in some of the increased west-to-east container traffic flowing through the Canal.

The expansion project is the largest project at the Panama Canal since it was opened in 1914. It creates a new lane of traffic through the construction of a new set of locks, doubling the waterway’s capacity.

The inaugural trip through the new locks will be June 26. China COSCO Shipping won a draw to be the waterway’s first customer.

Prior to expansion, the Canal could handle only vessels with up to 5000 containers. After the official opening, Post-Panamax vessels of up to 14,000 containers can make the journey.

Impact on Port of Virginia at Norfolk

While the Panama Canal expansion is not expected to have any major impact on volumes at the Port of Virginia, the Port is in a prime position to win whatever freight is diverted from West Coast ports.

The Port of Virginia has ample room for expansion and offers the deepest harbor of any port on the East Coast, which is essential for handling today’s super-sized cargo ships.

Some of those huge vessels are already utilizing Norfolk terminals by traveling from China through the Suez Canal, a trip that is only about 700 miles longer than traveling through the Panama Canal.

Kanban Logistics and the Port of Virginia

Kanban Logistics is located in Eastern North Carolina, about two hours from the Port of Virginia.

Several companies that import through the Port use Kanban to store and distribute products. They find that the overall cost of distribution is significantly less in than the cost of Port-area warehouses, and that these savings pay for the added cost of container drayage within just a few months.

Kanban offers one million square feet of cost-effective warehouse space to support the distribution of East Coast imports to manufacturers and retailers.

Kanban hopes to grow as the Port of Virginia grows. And the Port is growing.

  • In February the Port processed 220,726 containers, a 24 percent increase when compared with February 2015.
  • The Port of Virginia set a new annual record for container cargo volume having handled more than 2.5 million TEUs in 2015, a 6.5 percent increase over the previous year’s total.

West Coast ports are clearly the fastest way to get goods from Asia to the U.S. market. But labor disputes and long delays at Southern California ports have led many shippers to consider alternatives.

The Panama Canal expansion now gives these shippers options they never had before.