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International Railroad Discussion > Impact of new canal on Panama Canal RR

Date: 04/07/17 16:26
Impact of new canal on Panama Canal RR
Author: WP17

I was looking at some slides I took over 10 years ago of Panama Canal RR container trains running aiong the canal. That got me wondering how much, if any, impact the opening of the new canal has had on the railroad's freight business.

Can any on this board provide any information on this.



Date: 04/08/17 12:05
Re: Impact of new canal on Panama Canal RR
Author: BoilingMan

TRAINS did a big story on this a while back.  If I recall, it said the RR would probably be just fine.  They had developed and invested in competitive alternative system:
Large container ships unloaded on the West Coast and the RR delivered them to a port on the East Coast where the containers are reloaded onto smaller ships bound to more specific locations.
I  guess this works well because the smaller ships can easily get into seaports that can not yet handle the new super ships, and the larger trans-pacific ships can turn quicker at Panama (fewer ships needed).
It all sounds rather clever to me.

Date: 04/08/17 13:16
Re: Impact of new canal on Panama Canal RR
Author: lynnpowell

I believe that there is a big monetary saving also.  It costs a smaller ship around $150,000 to transit the canal, while it costs the huge container ships around $829,000 to pass through the canal!

Date: 04/08/17 14:13
Re: Impact of new canal on Panama Canal RR
Author: BoilingMan

Yes, but understand that with the RR's plan, freight containers cross The Isthmus by rail- ships don't pass through the canal at all.

Date: 04/08/17 19:07
Re: Impact of new canal on Panama Canal RR
Author: JLinDE

Where I think lynnpowell is coming from is this. And these are my numbers from what I know subject to any correction you may have. IHRC; the old locks maximum size conship was 5000 TEU's That means twenty-foot container equivalents. At $150,000 per transit that is $30 per box; or $60 per 40ft typical IMO container which is 80% of the traffic versus 20ft cons at 20%. I think from what I have read is that the new canal's maximum size for container ships is around 10,000 TEU. ( I know that the biggest box ships built to date are around 13,000 TEU capacity; but they will not fit the new canal.) The new canal, as far as crude oil ships go, can accept a Suez-max crude carrier but not at full draft (55 feet). The new canal cannot accept the years long standard VLCC crude oil tanker; length might fit but beam and loaded draft not. The largest container ships built to date are 200 feet longer than a VLCC and just as wide, and they may have reached the practical upper limit of container ship size due to engine capacity and propulsion shaft size. So, that being said, if the $829,000 transit fee for a 10,000 TEU ship is accurate, then the cost is $83 per 20ft box and $146 per the much more common 40ft box. That gives the Panama Canal Railway a lot of pricing room. AND, if the bigger con-ships that cannot transit even the new canal stay in just East Asia to West Coast North Americas trade, which they almost have to do ( altho some may get thru the Suez at times) then the Panama Canal RR has even more traffic. The time for the Panama Canal RR traffic is not up yet.
Corrections welcome.

Date: 04/17/17 18:32
Re: Impact of new canal on Panama Canal RR
Author: Wurli1938

The biggest ship ever to visit the U.S. East Coast will make its maiden call in Charleston, South Carolina next month after sailing through the expanded Panama Canal from China.

The MV Cosco Development, which measures 1,200 feet long and 158 feet wide, can transport up to 13,092 TEUs. It is scheduled to call at the South Carolina Ports Authority’s (SCPA) terminal in Charleston Harbor on May 13.

Maersk has just taken delivery of a new container ship for the Far East to Europe trade, the "Madrid Maersk" which will carry up to 20,568 containers. Around 1200 feet in length.

Date: 05/06/17 20:13
Re: Impact of new canal on Panama Canal RR
Author: JLinDE

Late response. If that is true, then my source was wrong. I think it was a rather well respected marine source. Then maybe the original Q might be right, if the biggest box ships to date can negotiate the new canal then KCS's Panama Canal RR may be in jeopardy. I guess time will tell. But I also read the size of the current ships, as big as they are, is the maximum as I stated above, due to engine and propeller shaft lengths; that also from a marine source. But maybe that will change too. But the new canal still cannot take a fully loaded VLCC for crude oil, and I also do not think these biggest box ships will go to far inland ports like Baltimore.

Date: 05/07/17 20:30
Re: Impact of new canal on Panama Canal RR
Author: SOO6617

The largest containership for the next month or two is the MADRID MAERSK 1309' by 196', which is well beyond Neo Panamax size. Indeed there are at least 50 containerships that are sailing today that are too big for even the newer larger Panama Canal. The new lock chambers can handle 1201' by 161' some ships exceeded one or the other of those dimensions as long ago as 2009.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 05/07/17 20:37 by SOO6617.

Date: 05/07/17 21:04
Re: Impact of new canal on Panama Canal RR
Author: JLinDE

To SOO6617, thanks for your response. I found the source of my comments. It is a Professional Mariner article 'Signal's on page 4 of the Oct/Nov 2016 issue. I have been a long term subscriber. Quickly put 'The 5.4 billion Agua Clara locks will accommodate ships up to 1200 feet long and carrying about 13000 TEU'. I checked Wiki and Google Earth. Yes, the locks are roughly 1400 feet long and 180ft wide and have a depth of 60ft which I do not know how to figure on Google. The old locks used the railed 'mules' to pull ships thru the canal and they could get the 108ft beam of battleship NEW JERSEY thru the 110ft wide locks. That was an exception and designed to fit. Most regular ships passing maximum width is 106ft or 32 meters. Only 2 feet either side!

BUT, the new locks use tugs to control the ships thru the locks. And you do not just ram a ship slightly shorter or less of beam into a lock. You have to be able to stop it, mostly by the tugs. What you say has to be true. Time will tell, but in some trades, the new Panama locks may already be obsolete! jlinde

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