The expanded Panama Canal is expected to slash global shipping costs by $8 billion a year, making U.S. agricultural commodities more competitive globally, according to officials.
The expanded Canal’s new third lane can accommodate ships more than twice of vessels that pre-expansion. The larger ships can hold up to 4 million bushels of soybeans, nearly double the 2.1 million bushels currently loaded on to a typical ocean vessel.
Mike Steenhoek, executive director for the Soybean Transportation Coalition, told AgDay the $5.25 billion canal expansion could nearly double the amount of 600 million bushels of soybeans that are currently shipped each year through the canal.
But for producers in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, the Canal expansion won’t make much difference, according to Leonard Barnes, deputy executive director for the Port of Grays Harbor.
Why? Because it takes 14 to 15 days to ship products to China from Pacific Northwest ports, which is less time than the average 20 days for products shipped from the Panama Canal, he told AgDay.