Panama Canal enlarged to boost US-Asia trade

Panama Canal enlarged to boost US-Asia trade

PANAMA CITY, June 23, (APP): Panama Canal enlarged to boost US-Asia trade


With its capacity  boosted by nearly three times, Panama's enlarged canal -- set  to be inaugurated on Sunday -- is expected to stimulate trade  between the United States and Asia , and steal business from  the rival Suez canal .


"A good deal of the commerce between Asia and the east  coast of the United States can pass through directly on   Neopanamax ships , which will help both sides," Nicolas Ardito  Barletta, a former Panamanian president and former vice president  of the World Bank in Latin America, told AFP.


Neopanamax ships , as their names suggest, are new  generation cargo vessels built specifically to pass through  the broadened Panama Canal . They can carry up to three times  the number of containers the previous generation of smaller  Panamax ships do.


Panama has spent the past nine years -- and more  than $5.5 billion -- expanding its century-old canal to  take on bigger freighters.


New locks and a wider shipping lane will allow  vessels as wide as 49 meters (160 feet) and as long  as 366 meters (1,200 feet) to pass through.


The aim is to greatly increase the amount of cargo  transiting the 80-kilometer (50-mile) long waterway linking  the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.


"We are at the dawn of a great time for Panama and  the world, thanks to the impact the canal's expansion will  have," Panama's Vice President Isabel De Saint Malo boasted to  AFP.


- Chinese ship to be first through -




Five percent of commercial maritime traffic already  passes through the canal, particularly between ports in  America, China, Japan and South Korea. To a lesser degree,  it also serves South America and Europe.


On Sunday, a Chinese Neopanamax freighter, named the   COSCO Shipping Panama for the occasion, will be the first  to officially go through the broadened canal.


Asian exporters, shipping groups and US logistical  and trade companies should be the first to benefit from the  modified canal, says Carlos Guevara-Mann, a Panamanian  political science professor at Florida State University.


American consumers will also see advantages, ending  up paying "less for imported items from China and neighboring  countries", he predicted.


In general, the costs of doing trade worldwide should  decrease, as should polluting emissions, because a fewer number  of bigger ships would be hauling goods, specialists say.



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