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Talking about Panamax

May 19, 2011
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Following up on yesterday, some background is in order.

The biggest ships that can go through the Panama Canal are called “Panamax.”  When the canal enlargement is completed, there will be a new standard – “New Panamax.”  The Panama Canal has provided guidance on this:

The corresponding maximum dimensions for vessels that will transit these locks are 366 meters LOA (ed. 1200.79 ft), 49 meters (ed. 160.76 ft) in beam and 15.2 meters (ed. 49.87 ft) in tropical freshwater (TFW) draft. These dimensions are being used to define the New Panamax size vessel.

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The allowable height for any vessel transiting the Canal or entering the Port of Balboa at any state of the tide is 190 feet (57.91 m) measured from the waterline to its highest point. With prior permission from the Transit Operations Division Executive Manager, height may be permitted to 205 feet (62.5 m) on a case-by-case basis, with passage at low water (MLWS) at Balboa.

The Port of Tampa has a 43 ft main channel (see here, here)  and “air draft” – basically the height – 175 ft Sunshine Skyway Bridge (see here).  So, obviously, the Port of Tampa (and Port Manatee, for that matter) cannot accommodate New Panamax ships.

Another important thing to keep in mind – the present Panamax ships can carry about 4000 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit – containers come in many sizes, but a standard 40 ft container is 2 TEU’s).  The New Panamax ships can carry 12,000 TEUs.  So, each of the new ships carries a cargo equivalent of three old ships.

So the question is why is there no move to dredge a deeper channel.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Answer Mar permalink
    May 29, 2011 7:29 PM

    The answer is that the new panamax ships can not fit through the tight turns of our channel or under the Sunshine skyway. Also, the large ships do not want to deal with the half day crawl through our channel.

    Dredging for depth will not adress the issues.

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