This is what some of the expansion at the Panama Canal looks like. The projected end date is 2015.
While east coast ports like Baltimore are prepping for large Post Panamax ship, the Alabama Port Authority can already accommodate one--and gets at least one a week. Once the Panama expansion is finished west coast ports could lose some of that oversized cargo business. Port Authority director Jimmy Lyons says you shouldn't expect them to give up.
"If you try to take something away from somebody they react a lot stronger and to have a major shift of cargo you're going to have take something away from the west coast ports," says Lyons. Recent port improvements like a deeper turning basin and new container cranes allow Mobile to handle these larger vessels. Mobile can handle the large cargo ships as long as Mobile is in the middle of the ship's journey rather than at the beginning or end. Ships of that size are too heavy for Mobile if they're fully loaded with cargo.
"The draft that we have 45 feet really gives us an advantage or puts us on par with other gulf ports, New Orleans is 45 feet," says Lyons. Lyons says the shift from west coast ports already happened and growth from the Panama expansion will be incremental at best. On the horizon is a plan to create a passing lane so two massive cargo ships can pass in and out of the port at the same time. With a $40 million price tag there isn't a lot of money for the project right now.
"The budget crisis we have in Montgomery is very real so I have no expectation in the near future of the state coming in and helping us," says Lyons.