Panama Canal expansion may ripple through Tampa's port
TAMPA - The Panama Canal expansion expected to be completed by 2014 or 2015 frequently is labeled a game-changer for U.S. seaports. The canal will be able to handle a new generation of larger ships that can carry more cargo — in particular more cargo containers — and enable the canal to better compete with the Suez Canal for ships traveling worldwide routes. But just how the $5.25 billion canal expansion will affect business at individual U.S. ports, including the Port of Tampa, remains uncertain because of myriad economic and possibly political factors, speakers at a two-day international trade routes conference in Tampa said. The gathering hosted by the Tampa Port Authority at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay drew 150 top-level maritime and shipping executives."The impact of the canal will depend on the carrier," Rodolfo Sabonge, vice president of market research and analysis for the Panama Canal Authority, said Friday. "It will depend on how they plan their network strategies." In its favor, Tampa's port can handle container ships larger than the Panama Canal currently serves, port director Richard Wainio said. "It is likely carriers will use somewhat larger ships to serve Gulf of Mexico ports after the canal expansion," Wainio said. However, the largest ships that will use the Panama Canal are likely to serve trans-shipment ports in Latin America, where cargo would be separated and loaded on smaller ships to serve ports like Tampa in a concept similar to airlines creating hub airports such as Houston and Atlanta.
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