The New Panama Canal

It took 40,000 workers 10 years but finally in 2016 $5.4 billion expansion is finally complete. For decades the Panama Canal has been a shorter route to assist trades such as shipments from the Gulf Coast to bigger markets in Asia and South America. With this addition the Canal can adjust to accommodate 90% of the world’s LNG tankers.

LNG is not the only thing being transported across the channel, the new lane will allow ships carrying nearly three times as many containers to pass, bringing a variety of products such as umbrellas, ceiling fans, flat-screen TVs and many more from factories in Asia to commercial centers on the East Coast.

Expectations of the New Canal

  • The canal won’t have an immediate impact on the export industry as it is still in its early stages.
  • Low oil prices stiffen competition for all LNG shippers.
  • Sluggish demand for LNG in Asia makes obtaining contracts difficult.
  • Even with the upgrades “ultra large” carriers of crude oil may still be too bulky for the new locks.

Opportunities for Caribbean Countries

With the expansion of the canal, it presented opportunities for Caribbean countries to exploiting an array of services. Many of Caribbean countries sought to benefit from the increased traffic. A service that could be offered is bunkering (supplying fuels) to transshipment of containers to dry docking facilities.

Trinidad and Tobago’s Stance

Trinidad has a clear advantage in bunkering as Trinidad is the only oil producer in the region, however, Port-of-Spain nor Point Lisas’ ports are not up to transshipment requirements. T&T is not equipped to offer any bunkering services. Past and present governments have stated that maritime services are an issue but no plans have been made.

Should Trinidad and Tobago push to fix it’s ports and offer bunkering to improve business relations with transshipments?