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May16, 2016

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22 THE JOURNAL OF COMMERCE MAY 16.2016 TOP 25 NORTH AMERICAN PORTS SPECIAL REPORT But when the new locks finally open this June, more than two years behind the original schedule, the event may prove anti-climactic. Post-Panamax container ships that the new locks were built to han- dle have been calling at East Coast ports for the last three years from Asia via the Suez Canal. The ships on the Suez route began arriving at East Coast ports well before many of them had completed deepening their harbors; ships could only call some ports twice a day at high tide or after they had unloaded enough cargo to lighten their draft at ports with deeper channels before calling ports with shallower drafts. Three East Coast ports already have 50-foot channels, enabling them to han- dle post-Panamax ships without tidal restrictions. Other ports are at various stages in their deepening projects. The ports of Virginia and Baltimore are benefiting from the fact that they were once major coal-exporting ports, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had excavated 50-foot channels more than a decade ago. The Port of Miami finished its 50-foot channel last year. The Port of Virginia and Army Corps of Engineers signed an agreement last year to share the cost of a three-year study examining the feasibility of deep- ening Hampton Roads port channels to as much as 55 feet. At Baltimore, Ports America com- pleted deepening the berth at its Seagirt Marine Terminal to 50 feet in 2013 and installed super-post-Panamax cranes there that can reach across ships carry- ing 22 rows of containers. Miami completed deepening its channel to 50 feet last year and has installed four super-post-Panamax gan- try cranes to handle the larger ships it expects when the third set of Panama Canal locks open. Other East Coast ports are in various stages of deepening their channels and harbors, but they won't be completed by the time the locks open to commercial traffic in June. NEW LOCKS TO BRING BIGGER SHIPS When the new Panama Canal locks open, they'll be capable of handling container ships with capacities of up to 13,000 20-foot-equivalent units. Fortu- nately for East Coast ports that haven't completed their deepening projects, it will probably take a year or more before ocean carriers start deploying ships of that size on the all-water route from Asia to the East Coast. "At the very beginning, I expect 9,000- to 10,000-TEU ships, which will be the workhorse for the first, say, half a year to a year, and then we will see them going to the next level, which could be anywhere from a 12,000-TEU to a 13,000-TEU ves- sel," Panama Canal Administrator Jorge Quijano said in an interview. After more than 12 years of dredging, the Port of New York and New Jersey expects to complete a $1.6 billion proj- ect this summer to deepen to 50 feet the channels to its major container terminals in New Jersey and on Staten Island. Still, completion of the project, which started in 2004, won't clear the way for the biggest ships to call at those termi- nals. That will have to await completion, by the end of 2017, of the $1.3 billion proj- THREE EAST COAST PORTS ALREADY HAVE 50-FOOT CHANNELS, ENABLING THEM TO HANDLE POST-PANAMAX SHIPS WITHOUT TIDAL RESTRICTIONS.

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