The widening of the Panama Canal will change the shape of the country and maritime transport worldwide. This is no exaggeration. As of late 2014, when the expanded canal is scheduled to open, cargo ships from Asia will have unrestricted access to the east coast of the United States.
This will mean a big change for the Panama Canal and for many US ports on the Atlantic. Ports like Manatee and Miami, Florida, and Wilmington and Morehead City, North Carolina, are making investments to accommodate post-Panamax vessels. At the same time, they all signed memoranda of understanding with the Canal to jointly encourage vessels to reach their ports through the Canal. This will be a new way to market sea traffic.
Panama will certainly take advantage of this shift in the international trade's center of gravity. In fact, the Panamanian Government's 2010-2014 Strategic Plan places logistics as the most powerful engine driving the country's development. The goal is ambitious. "Panama seeks to become the logistical Hub of the Americas. I don't mean just Latin America, but all of the Americas," emphasizes Roberto Henriquez, Minister of Trade and Industry.
Panama's current port system already gives it an advantage in accomplishing this goal. "Panama has the most modern port system in Latin America and the 11th most modern in the world," according to Vice Minister of Foreign Trade Jose Domingo Arias, one of the members of the new "corporate cabinet."
The ports of Colon, Balboa and Manzanillo are among the 10 largest in Latin America and Panama's seven ports moved over 5 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent unit containers) in 2010. This is a huge volume considering that the largest port in Latin America, Port Santos in Brazil, moved just over 2.6 million TEUs in 2010.
But Panama's logistical development is not just about its ports. "No other place in this hemisphere has an interoceanic canal, interoceanic railroad, the largest free zone in the Western Hemisphere with US$20 billion in movement and a banking sector without a single bankruptcy during the financial crisis, all within space of just a few...