The Western Coast of the United States has always been known for its historically bustling ports and empire of cargo ships and manufacturing industry. However, in 2014 many are predicting a major shift from the West Coast ports to East Coast ports. The shipping industry has recently made a move towards bigger ships. These mega container ships are called “post-panamax” ships because of their larger size. This large size also prevents these ships from safely navigating the Panama Canal forcing shipping and unloading to occur mostly on the Western ports of the United States.
Due to an Oct. 22, 2006 referendum, Panamanians approved the Panama Canal Expansion Project which will add a third set of locks allowing the Panama Canal to handle the so called “post-panamax” ships safely and other ships that are more than twice as large as today’s ships easily. This widening of the Panama Canal will promote many shipping companies to make a move from the overcrowded Western ports to the now easily accessible and more efficient ports of the East Coast.
The South Carolina Port Authority is currently preparing for this invasion of giant cargo ships. Already, there are plans in the works to expand the port of Charleston. Also the South Carolina Port Authority has stated that the Charleston port is already “big-ship ready” with a harbor capable of handling up to 47 feet of draft. In fact the Charleston port has already handled one of the world’s biggest ships, the MSC Rita. The MSC Rita steamed into port in February of 2010 with a nearly 48-foot draft and is capable of carrying about 8,100 20-foot-long shipping containers.
The South Carolina Port Authority has also stated that the expansion will not just be a simple add-on to the port but the expansion will be with long-term goals for the future of the Charleston port in mind. The South Carolina Port Authority has already received federal funding in order to do more reconnaissance and study to further deepen the port even more for future heavy cargo ships to easily pass through the port. The Charleston port is gearing up for a surge of incoming ships in 2014 due to the widening of the Panama Canal but the Port Authority is on top of everything, assuring industrial leaders that Charleston will be ready.