In the midst of a $5.2 billion upgrade that will allow the passage of shipping vessels currently too large for the Panama Canal, the Panama Maritime Authority has granted permits to a private development group to build and operate a new, $600 million container terminal on the canal’s Atlantic side. According to Jones Lang LaSalle’s project development services group, which is serving as development adviser to the project, the Panama Colón Container Port is expected to become “one of the largest private maritime infrastructure projects in Panama, and the first terminal to be built on freehold land.”
The canal’s expansion is designed to allow greater ship flow, and will accommodate the larger “super post-Panamax” size vessels that exceed the canal’s current size limitations. However, since many ports in the United States, South America and the Caribbean also have size limitations that prevent such ships from docking, the PCCP project will allow cargo transfer to and from smaller container ships that can navigate those ports of call.
Currently, the only American city that can handle the super post-Panamax ships along the Eastern seaboard is Norfolk, Va.
“Transshipment terminals will have a significant impact on the new Panama Canal era,” John Carver, head of JLL’s ports, airports and global infrastructure group, said. “Too many seaports do not currently, and may never, have the harbor depth required to take advantage of the trend towards post and super-post Panamax vessels. PCCP is the first terminal to be engineered specifically for the expanded Panama Canal and will provide a critical new link in the global supply chain, further enhancing Panama’s already strategic designation as one of the world’s primary global transshipment hubs.”
Set to break ground in summer 2012, the four-berth terminal will be capable of handling container vessels up to 18,000 TEUs, or twenty-foot equivalent units, and is designed to handle 2 million TEUs in initial throughput with future expansion capability thereafter and offers unique complementary warehousing and logistics facilities. PCCP will complete in conjunction with the opening of the Panama Canal’s “Third Set of Locks” expansion project in late 2014.
According to the Panama Canal Authority, the number of commercial transits through the Panama Canal in 2011 stood at 12,987, a 3.2 percent increase from the 12,582 transits in 2010. The expansion project, started in 2006,
“Clearly, transshipment traffic in Panama, and particularly on the Atlantic side of the Canal, is facing long term capacity constraints,” Carver said. “Despite global economic uncertainties, container volumes in Panama have continued to grow at impressive rates and, after 2014, we expect this growth to accelerate further.”