Anticipating the mega-ships that will traverse the Panama Canal when its expansion project is complete, the Port of Baltimore has already spent millions on enormous cranes that can service those vessels. Moreover, Vice President Joe Biden just announced a federal grant of $10 million for “widening and straightening the shipping channels into the port.”
Other East Coast ports are following suit. The federal government is helping to expedite the developing and deepening the harbors for New York and New Jersey; Charleston, S.C.; Savannah, Ga.; Jacksonville, Fla.; and Miami. Eager to capture their share of mega-ship traffic, these ports are taking on debt to finance upgrades in advance of the canal project’s completion, set for 2015. Not to be outdone, West Coast ports, such as LA and Long Beach, are undertaking their own projects to gain market share.
Outside of deeper channels and bigger cranes, ports will have to consider other improvements in port infrastructure, such as on-dock rail service to quickly move containers, and labor — ensuring that there are enough longshoremen to unload the larger vessels, and sufficient harbor pilots (and tugs) to guide the ships.