Panama Canal Expansion

The $5.25 billion expansion of the Panama Canal will either dramatically boost East and Gulf Coast container trade or disappoint their expectations of gaining more cargo. But the opening of much larger locks in early 2016 is already boosting prospects for more exports to Asia from U.S. Gulf ports of LNG, coal and grain cargos.

What is certain is that the doubling of capacity on the connector of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans will change the way the world¹s shipping lines ply their global routes when the project is completed. The doubling of the canal’s capacity will allow shippers to bring their Asian goods to the Eastern and Gulf coasts for less money. That’s largely because the new locks will be able to handle larger vessels that can carry nearly three times as many containers. The project is also expected to bolster Panama’s strategic positions as a transshipment hub and business center for much of Central and South America.

For general developments at the Panama Canal, see also JOC’s Panama Canal News page.

Special Coverage

Panama Canal locks expansion project
The Panama Canal Authority is shooting to open its third set of larger locks that can handle post-Panamax ships in May, but it doesn’t expect the larger locks to attract new services for several months.

News & Analysis

20 Oct 2016
The Panama Canal Authority said increased rainfall has permitted an increase in maximum allowable drafts at the canal’s new locks.
21 Jan 2016
When the Panama Canal’s third set of larger locks open to commercial traffic this spring, the massive expansion project will be more than a year and a half behind the original target date of October 2014 and an estimated $150 million over the $5.25 billion budget set 10 years ago.
Port of Los Angeles, Gene Seroka at PPNA 2015.
19 Jan 2016
Port of Los Angeles' Gene Seroka on current status of preparations for mega ships as the opening of an expanded Panama Canal approaches in 2016. Seroka details projects such as the Alameda Corridor, planned to handle trains 50 years into the future, the repurposing of land into "peel-off" yards, and revolutionary technology platforms from the U.S. DOT to Uber-like operations for less-than-truckload shipping.
18 Jan 2016
The opening of larger Panama Canal locks, already postponed several times by construction delays, has been pushed back again and now is expected early in the second quarter, a canal official said.
14 Jan 2016
The world’s fifth-largest container line, Hapag-Lloyd, expects no major tonnage changes on all-water container services through the Panama Canal before the end of this year.
12 Jan 2016
Even though the official opening of Panama Canal’s third set of locks is only about four months away, the true impact of the $5.25 billion project on U.S. East and West Coast ports is yet to be determined because of the many factors that affect international trade flows, the vice president of marketing at Manzanillo International Terminals said Monday.


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' channel assessment methodology based on national benefit/cost ratio is speculative and, in some areas, flawed, especially on the benefit side.

More Commentary