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Panama Canal at Crossroads
The Wall Street Journal ^ | Wednesday, January 7, 2004 | NEIL KING JR.

Posted on 01/07/2004 9:54:44 AM PST by presidio9

Edited on 04/22/2004 11:50:45 PM PDT by Jim Robinson. [history]

How many Chinese bras -- and televisions and Barbie dolls and VCRs -- can fit through the Panama Canal?

It's a question bedeviling canal authorities and many huge U.S. retailers who are betting on the waterway to get goods from Asia to the East Coast. Booming Chinese exports, and the increasing popularity of the all-water route from Asia to the Atlantic seaboard, made 2003 the busiest and most profitable year in the canal's 90-year history.


(Excerpt) Read more at online.wsj.com ...


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Extended News; Foreign Affairs; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: china; latinamericalist; panamacanal; trade

1 posted on 01/07/2004 9:54:44 AM PST by presidio9
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To: presidio9
While challenging, at least building new locks side-by-side with the existing ones is rather doable, compared to the monumantal task of greatly enlarging the channel and cut, which one doubts could even be achieved with modern expectations of worker safety. Bigger ships could presumably fit through the existing channels. From a recent transit, I recall that there was amply space to add locks at each of the three sets. Not trivial, but not monumental.

There is nothing inherently difficult about making locks somewhat wider or longer.
2 posted on 01/07/2004 10:08:32 AM PST by Atlas Sneezed
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Comment #3 Removed by Moderator

To: Beelzebubba
And while I understand that added lock usage by new locks would deplete the lake (hopefully consuming no more of the water that is now spilled over the dams), I do not see how flooding farms would add to the finite drainage basin that provides the needed water to operate the locks. Even raising the lake level would not increase the basin, which is defined by the ridges encompassing it.
4 posted on 01/07/2004 10:12:00 AM PST by Atlas Sneezed
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To: TonyRo76
A French-Belgian consortium is crafting blueprints...

Well, that's ominous!


Don't worry, the US can come in a generation after they fail, and make it work.
5 posted on 01/07/2004 10:12:41 AM PST by Atlas Sneezed
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To: presidio9; harpseal; Alamo-Girl; Victoria Delsoul; chimera; Cacophonous; belmont_mark; ...
For many retailers, the canal is now the best way to get goods from China to East Coast population centers, and the ports are making huge investments to absorb the increased traffic. Traffic back to Asia is even weightier, largely because of the preponderance of raw materials such as wood and scrap metal.

Check this out. The Great Sucking Sound just became a HURRICANE. Classic signs of the U.S. being made into a Third World Bananna Republic. And the Communists in Bejing are laughing all the way to the bank.

6 posted on 01/07/2004 10:14:26 AM PST by Paul Ross (Reform Islam Now! -- Nuke Mecca!)
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Comment #7 Removed by Moderator

To: Beelzebubba

Estimates run as high as 30,000 lives lost during original construction (that includes the 20,000 during the initial French debacle). Of course, we are better able to deal with malaria now, so contemporary numbers would not approach anywhere near that.

8 posted on 01/07/2004 10:28:58 AM PST by presidio9 (protectionism is a false god)
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To: presidio9
I'm of the opinion that they would be better served by cutting a canal from Gulfo de los Mosquitos to Golfo de Chiriqui. Between the cities of Santiago and David.

This would need to be a complete "sea level" cut meaning that the canal would not be the series of locks that the current system relies upon.

Waste from the cut could be used to form more islands and/or as aggregate for use in concrete for the walls.
9 posted on 01/07/2004 10:33:53 AM PST by taxcontrol (People are entitled to their opinion - no matter how wrong it is.)
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To: taxcontrol
What is the total milage between the two points?
10 posted on 01/07/2004 10:35:28 AM PST by presidio9 (protectionism is a false god)
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To: presidio9
$8 billion? Such a bargain!

That is far cheaper than the Big Dig in Boston which ended up costing $14.6 billion.

11 posted on 01/07/2004 10:37:30 AM PST by glorgau
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To: All
Unresolved Questions- the Panama canal, good, bad, or a waiting disaster?--thread II
12 posted on 01/07/2004 10:40:39 AM PST by backhoe (--30--)
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Comment #13 Removed by Moderator

To: glorgau
"post-Panamax" ships...
What is the max length and width of ships going thru the Canal today ?
14 posted on 01/07/2004 10:44:20 AM PST by Eric in the Ozarks
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To: presidio9
What this article fails to point out is that the Panama Canal is facing a number of other issues above and beyond the size limitation for ships using it.

First and foremost is the fact that the Panama Canal was most attractive as a shipping route to the East Coast when Asia's manufacturing was strongest in places like Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea. As manufacturing in Asia has gradually moved to places like Indonesia, India, and Malaysia, the preferred route to the East Coast became the Suez Canal. Singapore is almost exactly equidistant from New York to the east and west, and therefore there would generally not be much of a difference in shipping costs via either route.

However, the Panama Canal route would have two major disadvantages versus the Suez Canal route even if there were no limit on the size of ships in either Canal:

1. The Suez is a "flat canal," while the Panama Canal contains a series of locks that reduce the operating efficiency of the canal system. As a result, transit times are faster through the Suez then the Panama.

2. The trans-Suez route to the East Coast a tremendous advantage over the Pacific/Panama route because a waterborne carrier can have its ships make port calls at two major consumer markets (Western Europe and the Eastern U.S.) instead of just one.

Something worth noting here is that when it comes to freight transportation to, from, and within the United States, all carriers and modes are in a "win-win" situation because the level of consumer activity here is growing so rapidly. What this means is that the Panama Canal route is not going to "take away" any shipping from the Suez route, or vice versa. Ocean-going traffic along both routes is going to continue to grow over time -- any improvements at either canal are simply going to make one of them grow faster than the other.

15 posted on 01/07/2004 11:07:51 AM PST by Alberta's Child (Alberta -- the TRUE North strong and free.)
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To: Eric in the Ozarks
I may be wrong about this, but the figures 450 meters (length) and 55 meters (beam) come to mind for some reason. I'll do some research on this.
16 posted on 01/07/2004 11:12:27 AM PST by Alberta's Child (Alberta -- the TRUE North strong and free.)
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To: Alberta's Child
1476 feet long X 180 feet wide. That's beamy !
17 posted on 01/07/2004 11:16:27 AM PST by Eric in the Ozarks
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To: Eric in the Ozarks
Actually, I was way off on those figures. According to this site, the maximum ship size is 965 ft. in length and 106 ft. in width.

Match Shipping Management

18 posted on 01/07/2004 11:24:41 AM PST by Alberta's Child (Alberta -- the TRUE North strong and free.)
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To: Eric in the Ozarks
What is the max length and width of ships going thru the Canal today ?


A little over 100 feet wide, and about 1000 feet long.
19 posted on 01/07/2004 11:30:47 AM PST by Atlas Sneezed
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To: Eric in the Ozarks
965'l x 115'w.........newest generation container ships are 1150'l x 147'w.....with bigger ones being considered.

Ships of this size are currently restricted to the Pacific only trades or Trans-Suez trades between Asia/Europe/East Coast U.S.A
20 posted on 01/07/2004 12:08:14 PM PST by stationkeeper
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To: stationkeeper
Great Lakes (the Upper Lakes) max is 1000 X 105 feet wide but they can't get past the Welland Canal which is 730 X 75.
21 posted on 01/07/2004 12:16:58 PM PST by Eric in the Ozarks
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To: Paul Ross
Thanks for the ping!
22 posted on 01/07/2004 12:24:47 PM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: Alberta's Child
China runs the Panama Canal, hence, they have something of an economic stake in promoting its use over the Suez Canal.
23 posted on 01/07/2004 12:50:57 PM PST by Paul Ross (Reform Islam Now! -- Nuke Mecca!)
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To: Paul Ross
China runs the Panama Canal, hence, they have something of an economic stake in promoting its use over the Suez Canal.

Much of which is no doubt planned for future military use. Maybe for even squeezing a carrier through if done right. As I understand it, our carriers can't fit through here.

A side note, Li Ka-shing's son is looking to buy a bankrupt Canadian airline. China just continues to march on and on.
24 posted on 01/07/2004 1:16:11 PM PST by DarkWaters
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To: stationkeeper
FWIW, there is some speculation that the newest generation of container ships (as well as any larger ones planned for the future) may be obsolete before they are put in service. They may never be utilized to the extent it was expected.
25 posted on 01/07/2004 1:28:32 PM PST by Alberta's Child (Alberta -- the TRUE North strong and free.)
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To: presidio9
About 50% longer than the existing canal. Yes, far more expensive than the original but if done that way, it would be able to cut the operational costs as well.
26 posted on 01/07/2004 1:29:27 PM PST by taxcontrol (People are entitled to their opinion - no matter how wrong it is.)
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To: Paul Ross; Jeff Head
The simple fact the PRC now controls the canal makes any expansion of its capacity a militarily significant issue as well as an economic issue.
27 posted on 01/07/2004 2:44:17 PM PST by harpseal (Stay well - Stay safe - Stay armed - Yorktown)
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To: harpseal; Paul Ross
They would increase its size now for economic reasons and later perhaps for military use...but the real military use for them would come when they deny it to us. Either by defending it or destroying it, to impede our movement of troops and materiel across the Pacific.
28 posted on 01/07/2004 4:42:31 PM PST by Jeff Head
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To: Alberta's Child
Not sure what you mean by obsolete...........the problem with container ships of this size is not the panama canal since they don't use it anyway.
The biggest constraint on the largest container ships today is draft (water depth)...there is not a single East Coast USA port that can handle them at their max design draft, which requires about 52' of water depth....
they can hit southern california, most of the major line haul ports in europe and asia but not the U.S. East Coast.
this constraint drives all sorts of deployment and load factor decisions for the Carriers that operate these ships....that is why they are beating up all the major East Coast ports (N.Y/HAMPTON ROADS/CHARLESTON) to fix the problem through dredging to the required depths.....which is wildly expensive and has to clear a bunch of Environmental hurdles.
29 posted on 01/09/2004 9:48:52 AM PST by stationkeeper
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To: Beelzebubba
The real bottom line here...is that the canal is more than adequate for most ships used today. The super-vessels, which alot of companies dream of...aren't really required. As for the $8 billion figure...I doubt seriously that it would be enough. The real figure is probably in the $40-60 billion range. The corruption factor alone in Panama would add up to $5 billion during the contruction phase.
30 posted on 01/09/2004 9:58:05 AM PST by pepsionice
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To: stationkeeper
It's more of a "functional obsolescence" than anything else. Ocean-going carriers responded to the growing Asia-U.S. container trade by building larger ships to gain competitive pricing advantages through economies of scale, but many shippers have begun complaining that this has resulted in a scaling back in the number of ships making port calls for them.

The airline industry offers an interesting parallel. As passenger loads increase between two points, the airline industry does not respond by operating these routes with larger aircraft, but by offering more frequent service with the same type of aircraft.

In essence, the shippers are willing to pay slightly more with a carrier that uses two 3500-TEU ships per week than with a carrier than runs a single 7000-TEU ship per week.

31 posted on 01/09/2004 10:06:29 AM PST by Alberta's Child (Alberta -- the TRUE North strong and free.)
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To: Alberta's Child
Shippers aren't willing to pay more for diddly.....
i agree they like frequency and port coverage but they could care not a whit if the ship was 3500 teu or 35,000 teu so long as the price was right and the goods got to their buyer within the time specified.
32 posted on 01/09/2004 10:21:30 AM PST by stationkeeper
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To: stationkeeper
A shipper is certainly willing to pay more for frequent service if it helps reduce his warehousing requirements at either end.
33 posted on 01/09/2004 10:24:04 AM PST by Alberta's Child (Alberta -- the TRUE North strong and free.)
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To: Alberta's Child
okaaay.....my sales guys will be contacting you for help......try as they might, they have yet to figure out a strategy that pursuades Wal-Mart/Home-Depot/Nike/Big Three in Detroit/Toyota/Honda/Lowes, etc., etc., etc., that they should pay a rate premium for increased frequency (which is already essentially a sailing a day) which might translate into a net of one less dwell day in their respective distribution centers.
34 posted on 01/09/2004 11:42:05 AM PST by stationkeeper
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To: presidio9; *Latin_America_List
Posted on 01/07/2004 9:54:44 AM PST by presidio9 How many Chinese bras -- and televisions and Barbie dolls and VCRs -- can fit through the Panama Canal?

As many as Wal Mart can ship through the Canal, and as many as Wal Mart shoppers in Suburbia USA are willing to buy!

Wal-Mart in China (Wal-Mart and Chicoms find common ground?)

Chinese bases are also set up in Atlanta, Baltimore, Charleston, Houston, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Houston, San Francisco, Seattle, Secaucus, Toronto, Vancouver

35 posted on 01/14/2004 4:00:21 PM PST by j_accuse
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To: Paul Ross; Jeff Head; Orion78; JohnOG; DarkWaters
Sadly, many of our own business interests consider this sucking sound to be a good thing. The siren song of China has bitten them on their collective rear ends, and now they are infected with the bug which I'll characterize with a quote from that wonder of intellect, Tom Peters: "It's Asia stupid." Naturally, it is indeed Asia, in particular the PRC building up nuclear rocket forces, while just to the North, the CIS makes its own preparations. Oh, but how dare I point out such anachronistic signs of war, for after all, the infallible Francis Fukuyama, some years ago, assured us that with the fall of the Berlin Wall, history had ended and a milleneum of Pax Occidentalum, assured not by armies, but by armies of MBAs, was assured. [Melt the bombs, melt the bombs, melt the bombs, and never more to drop them, melt the bombs, melt the bombs, and never more desire them...]. Meanwhile, nary a Russian refutation has been made to A. S. Milovidov's barb regarding the naivete of Westerners concerning the utility of Wars of Mass Destruction for meeting one's goals of world conquest. And, in lock step, PLA generals have only further distilled their ideas regarding assymetrical means of defeating the West. Oh, but so sorry, there I go again, trying to hate the Eastern Bloc back into existence.... bad Clausewitzian, bad Clausewitzian.

36 posted on 01/20/2004 2:55:35 PM PST by GOP_1900AD (Un-PC even to "Conservatives!" - Right makes right)
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To: harpseal
"The simple fact the PRC now controls the canal makes any expansion of its capacity a militarily significant issue as well as an economic issue.
"

Could you please come down here (panama) and show me the PRC 'controlling' the panama canal?

There are a lot of chinese here and things associated, but they don't control any canal. This is one of the more obnoxious urban myths that has sprung from H-W corruptly buying the balboa and cristobal port concession.

With modern military tech, the canal is not a controllable or defendible asset.
37 posted on 03/08/2004 10:54:46 AM PST by WoofDog123
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To: Jeff Head
"They would increase its size now for economic reasons and later perhaps for military use...but the real military use for them would come when they deny it to us. Either by defending it or destroying it, to impede our movement of troops and materiel across the Pacific."

It doesnt't matter how many troops the US (there are some now) or PRC have in china with regard to operation of the canal. It cannot be defended. The US could still have 40k men here ad it could be easily rendered inoperative by a competent military power or paramilitary entity.
38 posted on 03/08/2004 10:57:32 AM PST by WoofDog123
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To: presidio9
A cheaper, more effective means would be to bust the unions that screw up our West Coast ports.

Actually, an improved canel might do that.

39 posted on 03/08/2004 11:02:01 AM PST by Tribune7 (Free Martha)
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To: WoofDog123
The canal could be defended by the US...we have the technological capability presuming we had the control of enough land, air and sea space around it. We could have pressed for that.

Instead, we have chosen not to, and in fact have gone the other way.

As a result, others, particularly the Chinese, are in a position now to militarily hurt us by denying it to us. That is all.

40 posted on 03/08/2004 11:39:49 AM PST by Jeff Head
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To: Jeff Head
"The canal could be defended by the US..."

I am not sure I agree. The canal is so fragile mechanically (locks, dams) that it is hard to conceive of china not finding some way to do damage if that was their desire no matter what sort of hardware we had in the region. Heck, a traffic route runs 50-100 yards from the northeast chamber of Pedro Miguel. A road runs THROUGH gatun lock's north chamber.

"particularly the Chinese, are in a position now to militarily hurt us by denying it to us. That is all."

Agreed on the status-quo.
41 posted on 03/08/2004 11:47:47 AM PST by WoofDog123
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To: WoofDog123
Note my prior comment:

presuming we had the control of enough land, air and sea space around it

With that in mind, if we wanted to secure it, we would alleviate the issues you spoke of. But we have chosen to go the other direction.

42 posted on 03/08/2004 12:25:04 PM PST by Jeff Head
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To: WoofDog123
Does not Hutchinson Wampoa provide the Canal Management services? While the general maanger is Mr. Alberto Aleman Zubieta, I believe there is a contract for maintainence where Hutchinson Wampoa provides day to day operational maintainence as the prime contractor. That is a cery effective means of controling the Canal.
43 posted on 03/08/2004 12:55:13 PM PST by harpseal (Stay well - Stay safe - Stay armed - Yorktown)
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To: Jeff Head
"presuming we had the control of enough land, air and sea space around it"

Even then, the canal is still vulnerable to non-conventional assault, thus my comment about the fact that the locks are very close to residential areas, road, etc., at several points. the level of alert needed to prevent the likelihood of this via large-scale roadblocks, obstacles, etc., is so high that we would have to be at war already AND have indications of a threat to the canal for it to happen.

It might very well be defensible against a traditional military strike, but the enemy wouldn't have to limit themselves to this.
44 posted on 03/09/2004 7:51:21 AM PST by WoofDog123
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To: Beelzebubba
Experts say the bill could approach $8 billion,

20 billion is my guess. New locks would allow the current canal to continue to be used. Are we going to build it so the next Rat President can give it to China, like Carter did with the first one?

45 posted on 03/09/2004 7:56:31 AM PST by Richard Kimball
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To: WoofDog123
If we decided to do so...and if the conditions I mrentioned were met...we have the ability to defend it against both traditional and asymetrical threats IMHO.

What we are lacking is the will...particularly in the political circles.

Just my opinion on the matter.

This entire scenario figures rather heavily into the first three volumes of my Dragon's Fury Series of novels.

46 posted on 03/09/2004 8:36:43 AM PST by Jeff Head
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