Published July 13, 2011
The MOU, which was first signed in 2003, renews the operating agreement into 2014, when the expansion of the Panama Canal is expected to unleash a tsunami of cargo onto East Coast ports.
“As we move closer to the completion of our expansion plans, forging partnerships with ports along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States is a priority for the canal,” said Alberto Aleman Zubieta, administrator and CEO of the Panama authority, known by the Spanish acronym ACP.
Zubieta is the scheduled keynote speaker for the 2011 S.C. International Trade Conference in September on the Isle of Palms.
SPA spokesman Byron Miller said the organizations are working together on several mutually beneficial projects, and the SPA has sent several delegations there, including taking port customers to Panama.
“We’ve enjoyed a close working relationship with them the past couple of years,” Miller said.
The memorandum concerns, among other projects, information-sharing, joint marketing efforts, exchange of data, capital improvement plans, training and technology. The Panama Canal Authority also said the partnership will continue to promote the all-water route from Asia to the U.S. East Coast via the Panama Canal.
“We have enjoyed the mutual return on our partnership with the Panama Canal,” said SPA President and CEO Jim Newsome. “We are confident in the ACP’s vision, leadership and ability to successfully oversee the expansion project and eagerly await the anticipated growth that will result from an expanded canal.”
When the $5.25 billion Panama Canal expansion project opens, which is expected in 2014, the deeper, wider ships will be looking for a place to dock on the East Coast. Charleston has the deepest harbor in the region and can handle the largest ships, with a capacity of more than 8,000 20-foot equivalent units and with drafts of up to 48 feet.
A feasibility study is under way by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to consider deepening Charleston Harbor further. The Port of Charleston also is investing in facilities upgrades and construction of a new terminal to increase capacity by 50% under a 10-year, $1.3 billion capital plan.