Luring Post-Panamax Trade Won't Come Easy For Houston

Panamax container ship transiting the Panama canal. Wikipedia image taken by Williamborg
Houston is banking on an increase in port traffic, once the expansion of the Panama Canal is completed in 2015. Houston will face stiff competition.

The Port of Houston is undergoing a major expansion to accommodate “post-Panamax” ships — vessels so large they can’t fit through the Panama Canal. The hope is the canal’s expansion will allow Houston to pick up cargo traffic between the Far East and the Midwest. Up to now, such trade could only go through West Coast ports.

But Houston isn’t the only port city harboring such dreams. Karen Hooper is a Latin America analyst with private intelligence firm Stratfor.

“We’re talking about ports like Savannah, Mobile — also ports in Mexico, Lázaro Cárdenas. They are building railways that ship directly to the United States, and we’re starting to see an increase of shipping into Mexico, and then transshipment across Mexico and into the United States.”

The largest post-Panamax ships require ports with depths of at least 50 feet. Dredging that deep in the Gulf of Mexico is cost prohibitive. Even after the dredging of its Barbours Cut Channel, the Port of Houston will have a maximum depth of 45 feet.

Bio photo of Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Business Reporter

Andrew Schneider joined KUHF in January 2011, after more than a decade as a print reporter for The Kiplinger Letter...