Expanded Panama Canal Provides Increased Export Opportunities

Last year, the Panama Canal completed a major expansion project, giving exporters the ability to send more cargo and bigger ships.

The expansion was complete in June of 2016, and a contingent from the U.S. Grains Council’s annual meeting saw it in action this week.

And those vessels that did pass through planned well in advance. Manuel Benitez, Deputy Administrator for the Panama Canal says reservations to pass through are booked weeks in advance…

“Going forward, we have 207 reservations.  As of Friday, there were no reservations available until the 3rd of March.  So, there is a lot of interest in using the expanded canal.  Currently, we have six lots a day for these locks, we’re looking to increase that number after we do some dredging.” 

Benitez says the canal is important to worldwide commerce, but U.S. grain exports in particular…

“The total Panama Canal is responsible for transporting 32.2% of the US grain exports, and when we look at the exports that are born in the US Gulf, 85% of those exports transit through the Panama.  So, basically we can say that one-third of the entire US grains exports of the United States of America passes through the Panama Canal.”         

Tom Sleight is President and CEO of the U.S. Grains Council. He says the U.S. now hopes to see export partners adapt to the possibilities offered by the expansion…

“One of the things that we’re working on with our customers in places like Korea and Japan is starting having them to loading a larger ship, a larger volume ship to take advantage of the new lock, because, you can get through here faster.  Again, it helps us as a competitive advantage for US grain, if that helps us, that’s great.”

About 350 attendees traveled to the expanded Agua Clara lock to watch vessels pass through to the Atlantic Ocean.

A native of the Texas Panhandle, Rhonda was born and raised on a cotton farm where she saw cotton farming evolve from ditch irrigation to center pivot irrigation and harvest trailers to modules. After graduating from Texas Tech University, she got her start in radio with KGNC News Talk 710 in Amarillo, Texas.