Danish Maritime Days: Transforming Shipping Canals into Hubs

Having identified the nearing capacity limitations and shifting trading patterns authorities of the world’s two major shipping canals, the Suez Canal and Panama Canal, decided to expand their capacity to accommodate for the growing demand.

However, planning ahead requires a great deal more that allowing just for the safe physical passage of ever larger ships across the canals. Namely, the canals are becoming infrastructural and logistics hubs for shipping companies.

“We are already a natural hub for our region being in the center of the Latin America and growing economic of the region, including Central America and the US,” said Jorge Quijano, Administrator, Panama Canal Authority, Panama.

We became a hub for distribution. Today, we have 33 weekly services of container vessels going through the canal and 80% of them stop at the ports situated on the either side of the canal to distribute cargo to Latin America. In addition, we have 39 feeder services on both sides of the canal, so we already are a hub in the region and we expect to grow further,” he added.

According to Quijano, the Panama Canal is looking also into the diversification opportunities such as venturing into concessions with RORO ports, possible container terminal and a logistic park in the form a free zone. What is more, the canal is expected to receive its first LNG ship next year following a major demand from customers in Asia.

The expansion project has reached 95 pct completion rate and is expected to be inaugurated in April next year.

Once completed, the canal will make room for 14,000 TEU containerships, which make up some 97% of the global containership fleet, including those on order.

Quijano added that the canal’s design allows for construction of a bigger sea lock to accommodate for even bigger ships, such as the 20,000 TEU, but said that at the moment there are no plans to add such a lock.

However, the option was not fully ruled out looking ahead.

“In Egypt we started a mega project around the Suez Canal area as we are trying to transform Egypt into  a hub for logistics and industrial development,” says Admiral Mohab Mameesh, Chairman of Suez Canal Authority, Egypt.

There are six ports in the Suez Canal area and two industrial areas between them, with two container terminals being built in the region one at East Port Said and the other at Port Sokhna. 

As explained by Mameesh, since there are over 50 ships crossing the canal every day, there is a need for good infrastructure and a favorable regulatory framework to attract investment and Egypt is open for that.

With the new expansion project completed, the Suez Canal is ready to accommodate the biggest ships of today exceeding the 20,000 TEU mark.

World Maritime News Staff