Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 12th 2015 Contents The Caribbean influence impacted
Panama in 1904, the same year, Pana-
ma made its physical mark on the
world, cutting through a mountain to join the
Pacific and Atlantic Ocean s.
About 75,000 immigrants, mostly brought
in from the West Indies, migrated to Panama
to work as labourers on the Panama Canal.
The canal was completed in 1914, and by
then the Caribbean s impact on Panama was
cemented, as was Panama s impact on the
Now, 100 years later, Panama, located 2,200
kilometere away from T&T, is making an even
bigger impact on world trade as the canal s
expansion project is scheduled to open in the
first quarter of 2016---an event that is expected
to have as profound an impact on the
Caribbean as the thousands of West Indian
The billion-dollar project will create a new
lane of traffic along the Canal and will double
the waterway s capacity.
In 2013, Atlantic LNG CEO Atlantic CEO
Nigel Darlow predicted benefits to the oil and
gas sector, telling the Business Guardian the
Panama Canal expansion would, for the first
time, be able to take conventional sized LNG
vessels and provide much quicker access to
the largest LNG markets in the world, which
are in the Asia-Pacific market.
At present, the canal, which is made up of
a series of elevators which take Panamax-
sized vessels from one ocean to the next, is
too small for larger vessels.
Panamax ships were designed to be just
small enough to squeeze through the locks of
the canal. However, larger, post-Panamax ves-
sels, are too large to fit through the canal, as
it is currently constituted.
While these larger vessels make up 16 per
cent of the world s container fleet, they account
for nearly half the fleet s cargo capacity
The US$5.25 billion expansion, however,
includes a wider canal, large enough for all
vessel types to pay to pass through.
Darlow said the expansion would mean
greater tax revenue for T&T where Atlantic is
In 2012, Alberto Zubieta, president of the
Panama Canal Authority said the expansion
would have significant impact on T&T and
would open the capacity to produce liquefied
natural gas (LNG) and transport it.
Speaking at the Caribbean Investment Forum
that year, Zubieta said this will impact on T&T
as it will give this country faster routes to ship
"You have T&T that sells LNG to Chile. In
reaching Chile, the difference between Panama,
which is 3,782 nautical miles, and using the
Magellan Strait, which is 6,750 miles, is that
in that voyage you take six days. But once we
reopen, it will be faster. If you are sending
LNG through the Gulf of Mexico, you will take
11.4 days, better than through alternatives
routes. And this is important as the United
States will become an important exporter of
In an interview via e-mail, new Trade Min-
ister Paula Gopee-Scoon said T&T already
has a relative advantage in that it services the
Eastern Caribbean and the South American
markets in close proximity.
"Due to our close proximity, T&T is a viable
option for ship owners in the selection of a
location for ship-repair services. In light of
this, there are market opportunities for the
ship-repair industry in Trinidad in the largest
size category of vessels greater than 200,000
deadweight weight tons (dwt) such as general
cargo and container ships, dry bulk cargo car-
riers and oil tankers.
"The total economic impact of the maritime
sector may be broken down into direct and
indirect effects. Direct benefits would be the
increased economic activity and jobs generated
directly by the sector. Indirect effects include
the jobs and demand created up and down
the supply chain, as well as the consumption
generated in the rest of the economy," Gopee
She said the value and demand generated
in the sector would trickle down through the
overall economy to create further jobs and
demand, making the combined economic
importance of an even greater nature than
simply direct activities.
"In this regard, the full economic significance
of maritime activities is not the jobs at sea,
but rather the derived employment and eco-
nomic activities on shore."
In ports around the United States, prepa-
ration for the increased flow of goods from
the expanded canal has begun, with the state
of Ohio investing US$68.5 million in an inter-
modal terminal in Columbus.
The ports of Miami, Savannah, Baltimore,
and Charleston all already have official plans
to make expansions to accommodate the larger
In 2014, the Inter-American Committee on
Ports (CIP) of the Organization of American
States (OAS) said Caribbean countries needed
to take advantage of commercial opportunities
offered by the Panama Canal expansion.
Executive Secretary for Integral Develop-
ment of the OAS, Sherry Tross, said the expan-
sion of the Panama Canal presented both chal-
lenges and opportunities for the entire region
but had the potential to stimulate trade.
At the time, she called on the region to
modernize laws, guidelines and regulations
for the implementation and enforcement of
international safety standards.
Jamaica has already embarked on the mod-
ernisation of its Montego Bay port, with the
expectation that it would serve as a refuelling
station for LNG vessels making the journey
through the canal.
Jamaica is the closest Caribbean territory
In 2014, a port rationalisation study was
submitted to the Ministry of Planning and
The study indicated that for T&T to benefit
from the expansion of the canal, three measures
were needed to "rehabilitate POS and modify
and extend Berth 8, develop a new port in
Point Lisas and develop a new port at La Brea."
The report also suggested the expansion
could create opportunities for ship repair and
ship-building facilities in the region.
During the budget presentation last month,
Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced that
a ship building port had been planned for the
The Ministry of Finance is in the process
of establishing a framework for CL Marine
Limited, a subsidiary of the CL Financial group,
which would facilitate investment and expan-
sion of the facility located in the Western
However market opportunities exist in the
largest category of vessels and the Trinidad
Dry Dock Company Limited, a private sector
company, has plans for the development of a
ship repair and dry-dock facility outfitted with
large size dry-docks capable of handling the
largest new Panamax vessels.
The project entails the construction of the
Sullivan Island Dry Dock Industrial Complex
on an island of approximately 57 Hectares on
reclaimed land in the Gulf of Paria, just off
the Sea Lots area near the city of Port of Spain.
The expansion of the canal is also expected
to create a number of downstream industries
in the Maritime sector including, maritime
tourism, research in ship building, ship financ-
ing agencies, shipping lines and maritime law
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt NOVEMBER 12 • 2015
Preparing for the new Panama Canal
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