Channel deepening is all the rage among ports, with Long Beach officially starting a $40 million project to dig out 1.5 million cubic feet of material to extend the main channel to 76 feet.
“We’re sending a message to our customers. We want your discretionary cargo to come back,” the city's mayor was quoted as saying.
One of the benefits being touted for the deeper channel at Long Beach is that oil tankers will no longer have to be lightered but instead call at the terminal themselves. Unfortunately, the terminal is owned by none other than BP (still called British Petroleum by many US news outlets, even though the name was changed in 1998) and the likelihood is that when the 17-month project ends, there will be a new owner.
Just as events are overtaking BP, the same can be said of West Coast ports. The much sought-after discretionary cargo is already flowing in different directions
Certainly, East Coast ports are getting up steam to solidify ties with the Panama Canal and through Suez – Jacksonville being notable among them – and are shrugging off the competition from the West Coast.
The Panama Canal Authority and Alabama State Port Authority have signed an
agreement to promote business between Asia and the East Coast using the all-water route. “We view Far East trade through the expanded Canal as most significant for both our port and our state,” port authority CEO James Lyons has been quoted as saying. “The expansion will increase traffic, as well as accommodate larger vessels, currently serving Asian trade lanes.”
Savannah’s main channel from 42 feet to 48 feet to take post-Panamax ships. The project is expected to be completed in 2015, and increases the maximum draught of vessels from 40 feet to 50 feet.
Charleston's new service to Northern China and South Korea is expected to bring considerable gains. The port has already shown impressive traffic gains this year, with first half volumes comfortably up on 2009, driven by China and South East Asia.
On the Western Seaboard, Tacoma is said to be facing the problem of canceling its bonds for the construction of the aborted NYK terminal. A figure of $230 million in bonds has been mentioned, with possible termination fees of about $25 million.