Washington Delegation Tours Panama Canal Expansion

After leading a two-day fact-finding mission to the Panama Canal, aimed at learning more about how the canal expansion program will affect Washington trade, jobs and port competitiveness, Senator Pam Roach has returned to Washington.

She returned with an urgent warning for her fellow lawmakers: “We’d better get serious about making our ports more competitive or we are going to face a major blow to our economy and ability to create new jobs.”

The widened Panama Canal is set to open June 26; the $5.5 billion expansion project effectively doubled the canal’s capacity by adding a new set of locks to permit the use of the canal by larger container ships.

“Lawmakers in the Southeast are jumping for joy,” said Roach. “They know that the wider canal will allow much more cargo to come into the U.S. through their ports, which means bypassing altogether smaller or more costly West Coast options.

“If we fail to act now to make our ports more competitive, we risk falling further behind, losing tens of thousands of jobs and leaving our agricultural products heading to Asia at a significant disadvantage.”

The delegation received a briefing on the canal expansion, toured the Miraflores control tower, visited the site of the current locks and the newly expanded locks on both the Pacific and Atlantic sides, and participated in discussions of labor issues related to trade and port competitiveness.

Roach was accompanied on the trip by a delegation of lawmakers, union representatives and port officials, including:

  • Senator Maralyn Chase, D-Edmonds;
  • Port of Seattle Commissioner Stephanie Bowman;
  • Pierce County Council Councilmember Dan Roach;
  • Gordon Baxter, Vice President of the Puget Sound Maritime Trades Council;
  • Dean McGraff, President of ILWU Local 23, Tacoma;
  • Briahna (and David) Murray of Gordon Thomas Honeywell;
  • Kurt Beckett, Deputy CEO of Northwest Seaport Alliance;
  • John Parrott, Chief Operating Officer of Foss Maritime.