Panama Canal Inauguration: a strategic route for world trade and CMA CGM Group’s vessels


Luc Portier, CMA CGM Director of Studies, Projects and Development: “Impressive works were conducted by the Panama Canal Authorities. A widened canal will bring new opportunities for world trade. CMA CGM has foreseen these changes and made Kingston a strategic base: modernization works will allow the Group to operate all larger vessels sailing in the area, and make Jamaica a transshipment hub for the whole sub region”.

On June 26, the New Panama Canal will be inaugurated. As a major event for maritime transport, this inauguration will be attended by many distinguished guests, including the President of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela, and several Presidents of the world major economic powers.

Panama Canal, a strategic world trade route for CMA CGM
The Panama Canal, built from 1882 to 1914, is one of the main man-made canals in the world. Revolutionizing maritime transportation, the canal reduced the sailing distance between New York and San Francisco by more than 11,000 kilometers, compared to sailing around Cape Horn.

The Panama Canal decreases by 11,000 kilometers the distance between Shanghai and New York on the Manhattan Bridge CMA CGM Service, compared to a route via Cape Horn.

The Panama Canal decreases by 8,700 kilometers the distance between Malta and Guayaquil on the MGE CMA CGM Service, compared to a route via Cape Horn.

This 77 kilometer long canal is now a strategic route for global trade: 5% of all traffic passes through the canal (8% for the Suez Canal), representing 200 million tons of goods a year; on board more than 15,000 vessels.
Nowadays, the Panama Canal is a strategic route for CMA CGM. In 2015, the Group was the canal’s 2nd client for containerized transport. Today 8 Group’s services sail through the Canal representing one vessel a day.

Major works to modify maritime dynamics

In its former configuration, the canal could host what were referred to as “Panamax” vessels, with a length of 294m, width of 32m, and a 5,000 TEU capacity. Thanks to new locks and the widening of existing canals, works will allow passage for ships measuring 363m in length, 49m in width, 15m draft, and a maximum capacity of 14,000 TEUs.

Reflecting on new possibilities, maritime companies can rethink their routes, including that from Asia to the US East Coast. For example, the journey between New York and Hong Kong, the choice to sail by Panama or Suez Canal is subtle: there is just one day difference. The choice of route requires a lot of thought to give CMA CGM customers the best service.

Up until now, the canal’s dimensions set limiting parameters on the size of ships and impacted the region’s technological and commercial strategies. With the lifting of such constraints the evolution of vessels is probable, initially from 5,000 to 9,000 or to 10,000 TEU or even larger ships. The traffic is not likely to rise, but volumes in transit will probably increase.

CMA CGM makes Jamaica its strategic Caribbean hub in anticipation of widened Panama canal

Centrally located in the Caribbean Sea, just one day away from the Panama Canal, Kingston has a strategic location. On April 7, 2015, the CMA CGM Group secured the Kingston Containers Terminal concession. Directly related to the widening of the Panama Canal, CMA CGM’s works will allow berthing of 15.5 meter draught vessels.

The Kingston hub will be a strategic center for transshipment connecting the US East Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbeans and Northern Brazil. 90% of volumes transshipped will reach the sub region.

Source: Press Release 

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