The Panama Canal was a game changer in global maritime shipping when it opened in 1914. Will the canal be a game changer again in early 2015 when a $5.25 billion expansion is completed? If so, how will it influence Texas ports and the landside transportation system in the state?
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) formed the Panama Canal Stakeholder Working Group in 2012 to help answer those questions. The Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) assisted TxDOT with the working group meetings, reviewed previous studies and prepared the working group report.
Led by Harris County Judge Ed Emmett (chair) and Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos (vice chair) the working group held six information-gathering meetings in locations across Texas. “We heard from shippers, carriers, ports, industry groups and other organizations on their current operations and use of the Panama Canal, their perspectives on use of the expanded canal, planned improvements, and future needs,” Judge Emmett notes.
“The working group findings, recommendations and actions focus on better positioning Texas to take advantage of the Panama Canal expansion and other opportunities to enhance Texas’ role in global trade,” says Judge Emmett. “We especially considered opportunities to expand Texas’ position as a global gateway for the nation. By providing a low-cost, reliable, safe, secure and multimodal supply chain, the state can increase its global trade, create new jobs, and expand the economy of the state and nation.”
“Many of the recommendations from the working group are being implemented,” notes TxDOT Federal Affairs Director Coby Chase. “Creating a Maritime Division, expanding the working group into the Texas Freight Advisory Committee, and initiating work on a statewide freight plan represent just a few examples of follow-up activities.”
TTI Executive Associate Director Katie Turnbull assisted the working group and provided testimony to the Texas Senate Transportation Committee in December 2012. TxDOT Executive Director Phil Wilson and Port of Houston Authority Executive Director Col. Leonard Waterworth also testified on the possible impacts of the Panama Canal expansion on Texas.