The Panama Canal expansion, scheduled for completion in 2015, will handle super-sized cargo vessels. Major ports on the U.S. East and Gulf coasts are positioning themselves to compete for possible significant increases in their share of world trade, especially with Asia. The Port of Virginia at Hampton Roads is exceptionally well-prepared to play a leading role according to Sara E. Russell, a maritime trade scholar at Old Dominion University and author of the article. The Virginia Port has deep channels, room to expand, and is home to the world’s largest cranes, she writes. Importantly, the port is well serviced by two major railroads, the Norfolk Southern and CSX, which have updated their infrastructure all along the Eastern Seaboard to handle more and larger containers and cargo. Which ports will dominate and how will the global trade patterns shift? “That is literally a billion-dollar question,” Russell writes. In her analysis, West Coast ports will continue to receive the bulk of Asian trade simply because of their large population centers and existing infrastructure. The remaining cargo could be handled in a number of ways, she writes. A Caribbean hub could play a major role, but would most likely add to the cost of handling goods shipped onward. Or a major U.S. port could become a large central hub and distribute imports to surrounding coastal and inland facilities. Another option is that several key ports with well-developed infrastructures and quality services will receive smaller portions of the expected increased tonnage.
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The Virginia News Letter