The Governor of Georgia, Nathan Deal, today called the expansion of the Panama Canal an “historic moment” as the first vessels began transiting the canal’s massive new locks Sunday.
A delegation of Georgia officials, led by Georgia Ports Authority chairman Jimmy Allgood, traveled to the opening ceremony in Panama.
“The completion of the Panama Canal expansion is one of the largest and most important civil works projects in recent memory,” said Deal.
“The Port of Savannah is the leading East Coast trading partner with the Panama Canal, and today is a historic moment for both partners. The close ties Georgia and Panama share have helped to make the Port of Savannah the success it is today. I congratulate the Panama Canal Authority on its success and look forward to the completion of our own harbor deepening project. Completion of the Savannah Harbor expansion is vital to our economic development and job creation not only in Georgia and the Southeast, but nationally as well.”
Georgia’s deepwater ports and inland barge terminals support more than 369,000 jobs throughout the state annually and contribute $20.4 billion in income, $84.1 billion in revenue and $2.3 billion in state and local taxes to Georgia’s economy. The Port of Savannah handled 8.2 percent of the U.S. containerized cargo volume and 10.3 percent of all U.S. containerized exports in 2015.
“When you look at the share of loaded import containers destined for the East Coast via the Panama Canal, Savannah receives 30 percent,” said Jorge Quijano, CEO of the Panama Canal Authority. “We look forward to a continued strong rapport with the Port of Savannah and the state of Georgia.”
Industry experts estimate the larger ships now transiting the canal will provide savings of 20 to 40 percent per container slot, further increasing Savannah’s competitive advantage for the all-water trade routes.
Before its expansion, the Panama Canal could handle vessels up to the 5,000 twenty-foot equivalent container unit capacity. Now, 14,000-TEU vessels are the new maximum.
The GPA and Panama Canal will renew their MOU agreement, effective July 1.