Panama Announces Opening of Expanded Canal in June 2016. Is Miami Ready?

Port of MiamiThe expanded Panama Canal is set to open on June 26, 2016. Construction on the expansion began in 2007 and will cost over $5 billion with the aim of accommodating “post-Panamax” vessels, or ships that do not fit in the canal as currently constructed.

Currently, major ports along the East Coast of the United States – with exception of Baltimore, Maryland and Norfolk, Virginia – are not equipped to handle the post-Panamax vessels. Miami, which certainly hopes it doesn’t watch these vessels pass by its Port as they travel to more accommodating harbors, began a flurry of activity when the Canal’s expansion was announced.

To prepare for these vessels, PortMiami widened its shipping channel and dredged the harbor to a depth of 52 feet. It also has made significant improvements to the infrastructure surrounding the port, including to the rail and tunnel system beneath the harbor. Miami hopes that it will be the first port-of-call after the post-Panamax vessels navigate the Canal, but the city will face significant challenges from Port Everglades and Jacksonville.

It remains to be seen whether the expansion will be successful. Miami has certain advantages over other ports, including it being the closest U.S. port to Panama and a major metropolitan city with a reputation for accommodating international interests. However, there will also be steep challenges – such as from Port Everglades, the top container port in Florida – and disadvantages to Miami’s location, as it is not centrally located to other major U.S. population centers.

One thing remains clear: with the continuing changes to PortMiami and the new type of vessel able to cross the Panama Canal, Miami has an opportunity to step to the forefront as a leader in shipping efficiency. Doing so would be great news for the financial future of the city as it continues to grow its reputation as more than just a place to party, but as a leading center of commerce. Read more here.


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