The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) and the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA), which owns and operates the Port of Charleston, renewed their ties today with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
First signed in July 2003, the MOU, which is renewable for an additional three years, reinforces both entities’ commitment to growth and best practices that benefit customers, Panama and South Carolina.
“As we move closer to the completion of our expansion plans, forging partnerships with ports along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States is a priority for the Canal. Over the past eight years, we have developed an alliance with the SCPA that strengthens our ties, and enables us to pursue mutually beneficial joint activities,” said ACP Administrator/CEO Alberto Alemán Zubieta.
Areas of cooperation between the ACP and the SCPA include, among others, information-sharing, joint marketing efforts, exchange of data, capital improvement plans, training and technology. This partnership also will continue to promote the “All-Water Route,” the route from Asia to the U.S. East Coast via the Panama Canal.
Moreover, as the expansion of the waterway – with its expected 2014 completion – directs deeper, wider ships to the U.S. East Coast, the Port of Charleston is in a unique position to benefit. Charleston currently has the deepest harbor in the region and is already handling large ships with a capacity greater than 8,000 TEUs with drafts of up to 48 feet.
“We have enjoyed the mutual return on our partnership with the Panama Canal,” said SCPA President and CEO James I. Newsome, III. “We are confident in the ACP’s vision, leadership and ability to successfully oversee the expansion project and eagerly await the anticipated growth that will result from an expanded Canal.”
To accommodate that expected growth, the Port of Charleston is investing heavily in its facilities with a 10-year, $1.3 billion capital plan. Included in the plan are major upgrades to existing facilities and the construction of a new terminal that will boost port capacity by 50 percent. Simultaneously, business is on the rise, with a 17 percent increase in Charleston container volume in 2010.
And the Canal’s expansion remains on track following the recent commencement of the permanent concrete work for the new Atlantic side locks.
The $5.25 billion expansion project will build a new lane of traffic along the Panama Canal through the construction of a new set of locks which will double capacity and allow more traffic and longer, wider ships.