KOREA's Samsung Heavy Industries is designing a 13,200-TEU ship that will exactly fit the expanded Panama, which would will tilt the scales to the advantage of US east and Gulf ports at the expense of the west coast, according to the Maritime Professional journal.
Panama Canal Authority vice president Rodolfo Sabonge said the new 13,200-TEUer will be 366 metres long, drawing 15.5 metres move at 23.5 knots with a deadweight of 143,000 tons.
When the Panama expansion was first laid out, the expectation was to double the capacity, from 4,500-TEU to 9,000 TEU. Expectations grew to 12,000 TEU because of opportunities discovered in the course of dredging and new ship designs.
Panama traffic volumes are expected to rise from last year's 6.6 million TEU to 8.4 million TEU in 2015. Seventy per cent of the cargo transiting the canal is either destined for or originates in the US. Bulk cargo is likely to witness the biggest growth though container traffic will be the main business, said the journal.
The World Shipping Council's Anne Kappel said that port productivity will be the key to handling long-term container growth.
Transshipment will become even more important in services to the east coast, said Carlos Urriolo, head of Manzanilla port, noting that 86 per cent of the volume of traffic through the canal in 2011 involved transshipment.
The Port of Kingston in Jamaica, the only harbour in the region with a draft of 17 metres, will become more important and Freeport in the Bahamas with 14 metres will also be a big transshipment contender too.