Expansion of the Panama Canal Already Impacting Mobile?
By Steve Alexander
The expanded Panama Canal opened for commercial ships in late June.
Alabama State Port Authority Director Jimmy Lyons says it didn’t take long to see the impact here.
Lyons said, “Immediately, we gained two extra container ship calls a week that are coming from Asia.”
Brian Harold with APM Terminals at the port says the ships have been larger, too.
Harold said, “Prior to the Panama Canal expansion, the biggest ships that could fit through the Canal could handle about 4800 containers at a time. With the expanded locks, they’ll be able to handle in excess of 13,000 containers on one ship.”
And Harold says, with larger ships comes more work and, ultimately, more people being hired.
He said, “The more cargo you need to move, the more people you need to move these boxes.”
Port officials say they’ve been preparing for more cargo coming to Mobile, especially from the far east.
Lyons said, “We just opened a rail facility where we can ship containers in and out of Mobile on rail cars and not on trucks.”
Port officials believe investments here have helped make our area attractive for the mega distribution center Walmart is considering building in Mobile County.
That in turn would bring more business to the port.
Harold said, “When Walmart goes to a port, it brings more ships. It brings more opportunities for those shippers to take on more business.”
And Harold says the business trickles down.
He said, “When the cargo does leave here at the Port of Mobile, it’s going to warehouses. It’s being moved by truckers that are Alabamians. It’s going to get fuel in those trucks at Alabama gas pumps. And the list goes on and on.”
The canal expansion project cost almost five and a half billion dollars.
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