Over the Independence Day holiday, an era of “mega ships” began with the passage of the MOL Majesty through the newly expanded Panama Canal. The MOL Majesty has the distinction of being the first ship through that required a deeper canal for its large hull. It started its journey by picking up goods from Tokyo, Shanghai, and Busan and traversed the seas to eventually reach Port Miami for delivery.

New Canal Leads to Improvements Elsewhere

The $5.25 billion canal project was big news for the shipping industry. It meant that shipments could be bulked up. More goods on board a single vessel increases efficiency and decreases overhead.

But the Panama Canal was just the first step to a shipping revolution. Bigger vessels are now desirable. Different routes could be favored. The decrease in shipping times could lead to a wider diversity of product shipped. Not to mention that the rest of the route system, namely big ports like Port Miami, would need to be assessed and potentially reconstructed.

The Expansion of the Florida Port System

Currently, Florida boasts a 14 port system, due largely in part by the efforts of Gov. Rick Scott who took office in 2010. Since that time, over $1 billion has been invested in updating and maintaining the port system. Some of the biggest checks have gone directly to Port Miami for things such as deepening the port channel and even building a fast-access tunnel to connect the port directly to nearby highways, thus facilitating an expedited process for the entire shipping route.

The impressive port projects don’t end there. In fact, the Port of Tampa has seen major container yard improvements and there’s a brand new container yard at Port Canaveral. California’s Norcal containers has reported that cargo containers are easier to ship.

Florida Ports Council CEO and President Doug Wheeler has directed these changes in response to revolutions in the shipping industry such as the Panama Canal in order to maintain industry standards and meet the demands of the market.

 

The Risk

According to Wheeler, there is more risk to the Floridian economy and the industry by doing nothing than by allocating money to these projects. The volume of shipments from US East Coast ports to Asia fell 10.2% in 2015. For a Chinese economy that has grown sluggish and the competition of other routes like the Suez Canal, Florida ports need to be as prepared as possible to meet the needs of potential business.

The ‘big ship era’ is about to dock! Are you on board?