Potential Configurations of All-Water Routes Servicing the East Coast, Post Panama Canal Expansion

Configuration of All Water Routes Servicing the East Coast Post Panama Canal Expansion

Source: adapted from A. Ashar (2006) Revolution #4, Containerization International, December, pp. 46-49.

There are four possible configurations to service East Coast ports through the expanded Panama Canal, each possible in conjunction with the others:

  • Conventional. A single sequence that covers the entire East Coast through its main ports of call. The drawback of this configuration is a longer service time, but with New Panamax ships, the capacity can be sufficient to justify such a configuration.
  • Direct. The East Coast can be serviced by three (or more) direct services, each focusing on a specific sub-range such as the North Atlantic, Central Atlantic, or South Atlantic / Gulf Coast. This regional service specialization is slightly more time-effective than the conventional service and offers a wider port coverage level. These services can also be arranged in terms of containership capacity, with, for instance, New Panamax ships calling East Coast ports having the capacity to handle them.
  • Transshipment. Similar to the previous configuration, but with the insertion of one or more competing transshipment hubs, where deviation from major shipping lanes is reduced. The regional services become feeder loops with smaller ships but higher frequencies.
  • Circum-equatorial. It involves an additional hierarchy in the network structure with a global maritime shipping system with a circum-equatorial “conveyor belt” serviced by high-capacity containerships (8,000 to 12,000 TEU; New Panamax). In this case, the Caribbean transshipment hub acts as an interface between several major circulation systems, namely the Asia-Caribbean-Mediterranean circum-equatorial route and north-south connectors to South America.