Commentary on transportation in Connecticut and the Northeast by JIM CAMERON, for 19 years a member of the CT Rail Commuter Council.
Jim is also the founder of a new advocacy effort: www.CommuterActionGroup.org
Disclaimer: his comments are only his own. All contents of this blog are (c) Cameron Communications Inc
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August 28, 2013
The Shipping Revolution
year, billions of dollars worth of goods arrive on our shores by sea… oil,
cars, electronics and food.But how
those shipments make their way to our ports is undergoing dramatic change in
two significant areas.
first is the Arctic Ocean, suddenly free of ice many summer months and open to
traffic. Oil from Norway can now reach Japan by sailing “over” Russia rather
than sailing through the Suez canal, a 40% time / cost savings.And goods from China, the world’s largest
shipper, can arrive in Europe cheaper and faster (by up to two weeks) by
sailing the “Arctic Golden Waterway” rather than going through the Panama
Northwest Passage Sea Routes
the Northwest Passage between Alaska and Greenland is not
as accessible as the Russian waters.Canada claims the waters to be their own while the US says they are
course, both Arctic routes depend on global warming and are only passable a few
months each summer.And both passages
are very dangerous.Though the seas may
be free of ice, salt spray hitting the ships’ superstructure freezes instantly
at -20 degrees.If enough ice builds up,
ships can literally capsize from the weight.
to be outdone, the Panama Canal is expanding in a $5.25 billion project
approved seven years ago.When
completed, the wider and deeper channels and locks will handle vessels triple
the size of the already enormous “Panamax” ships of today.
PanaMax Container Ship
does this mean for the US?Plenty!
handle the mega-ships, US ports need to be dredged and widened as well.Almost $46 billion has already been spent for
cranes, higher capacity train lines and deeper channels at ports like
Jacksonville, Baltimore and, yes, even New York.
Port Authority of NY/NJ is about to spend $1 billion to raise the height of the
Bayonne Bridge to accommodate the taller mega-ships.
But environmental challenges may delay the
project ‘til 2016 after the new canal opens.
railroads are also gearing up.While it
used to be cheaper to ship containers to Long Beach CA and then carry them by
rail across the US, the new Panama Canal may see those containers arrive on the
east coast and be carried by train west.American coal may find new markets overseas by being shipped directly to
Atlantic ports for on-loading to ships.
rail service between the Pacific and Atlantic is not limited to the US.The governments of Mexico, Guatemala and
Honduras are looking to build a dry-canal (railroad) between the oceans that may
be cheaper to use than paying the tolls extracted for shipping through the
in Nicaragua, the Sandanista-controlled national assembly has backed a $40
billion plan for a Chinese company to dig a rival to the Panama canal.But there are many who doubt it can be done
or that its length, triple that of Panama, will be economically viable.
of these efforts add up to one thing:as
the ships get bigger, the world gets smaller.