The Panama Canal is being widened to accommodate larger ships than can now pass through – container ships that can carry the equivalent of 13,000 twenty-foot containers – “New Panamax” container ships
Ports up and down the East Coast of the US are being dredged, highways are being upgraded, and billions of dollars are being spent, in large part with the hope of inducing large post-Panamax container ships loaded with Chinese imports to bypass the West Coast and travel through the Panama Canal directly to their cities..
Ports already deepened to accommodate New Panamax ships include Baltimore, New York, and Norfolk. Ports planning dredging include Charleston, Jacksonville, Miami, and Savannah.
Jean-Paul Rodriguez, professor of global studies and geography at Hofstra University,challenge this business case and its economic rationale in the very interesting article, Smaller, Slower, More Expensive: Panama Canal Losing Shipping To Other Routes.
Another factor casting doubt on the long term viability of shipping via this route are the construction of new Triple-E class container ships, slower but very fuel efficient ships that can carry over 18,000 twenty foot containers – and are to big for even the expanded Panama Canal. West Coast ports are gearing up to handle them.