The South Carolina State Ports Authority and Panama Canal officials have renewed ties, in preparation for an increase in large-scale shipping traffic to the East Coast.
The canal is in a $5.25 billion project to add another lane to the Atlantic. For the Ports Authority, the renewed Memorandum of Agreement with the Panama Canal can mean more jobs and investment in South Carolina.
Ports Spokesman Byron Miller explains, “We are working very closely with the Panama Canal Authority, sharing information about areas of growth, ship characteristics and sizes, potential environmental benefits of increased Panama Canal traffic, and the overall objective is, when this multi-billion dollar expansion is completed in 2014, we want to ensure that we’re in the right position to maximize the benefits to South Carolina.”
The SPA first formalized a relationship agreement with Panama in 2003. Miller says, “We have subsequently enhanced, expanded and renewed that agreement. This most recent extension goes to 2014, with the possibility of extending that by another three in the future.
This agreement helps the case for the importance of deepening the Port of Charleston, say SC officials. The Port’s Authority’s Miller says “It’s important that we get ready, because the ships continue to get larger. We are already seeing four ships a week that are too big for the Panama Canal that come into Charleston. They come through either the Suez Canal or just stay on the Atlantic Ocean…we as a state need to be prepared for that.”
The beginning stage of the deepening project has federal support, but Miller describes that as “out of the gates, but not at the end of the race. We still, as a state and country have to fund future work on the feasibility study as well as the actual construction projects. That means we need to continue to work with our congressional delegation to secure the future funding that is required.”
The total cost of the entire harbor deepening project is projected to exceed $300 million and will be paid for with state and federal funds.
Miller adds that it was about 100 years ago that the Panama Canal was completed, an event that gained state, national and worldwide headlines for its business potential.