Thursday, September 16, 2010

Long Beach Trade Center To Host Panama Canal Panel

Last year, the Center for International Trade and Transportation (CITT) at California State University, Long Beach concluded a 10-year run of annual CITT Town Hall meetings that brought transportation experts together to offer their perspectives on critical topics. The well-attended and highly-praised town hall meetings evolved over their life into an important must-attend event for those in the Southern California international trade and shipping community.

On Oct. 6, the CITT will launch the evolutionary follow-up to the town hall meetings called Point/Counterpoint. This new event will bring together experts who will offer insight, education and information, not debate, about a specific topic of current interest. The topic for the inaugural Point/Counterpoint event is “Panama Canal Expansion: The Battle for Jobs and Cargo. Who Wins? Whose Loses? Who Decides?”

“Generally, a point/counterpoint discussion is like a debate; however the CITT Point/Counterpoint series is an educational forum and the desired outcome is not to have a winner or loser of the debate, but rather to gain salient information from all angles." said CITT Executive Director Marianne Venieris.

The CITT has has scheduled a pair of speakers with knowledge of both the Panama Canal expansion and the shipping industry in general--Paul Bingham from Wilbur Smith Associates in Virginia, and Mary Brooks from Canada’s Dalhousie University in Halifax--to review the facts surrounding the canal’s expansion as well as challenge existing assumptions concerning implications for West Coast ports, cargo volume, and jobs.

"The Panama Canal expansion is one of those issues that everybody talks about, yet nobody is clear on the implications for the Southern California Ports," Venieris said.

"When the expanded Canal opens, importers will have to be aware of other trends that are emerging that could threaten cargo growth through the ports of LA and LB," she said. "On the other hand, some of these trends could end up favoring west coast ports."

The expanded Panama Canal is scheduled for opening in 2014, which coincides with the canal’s 100th anniversary. The expansion will result in the construction of two new sets of locks — one on the Pacific and one on the Atlantic side of the canal. The expansion also entails the widening and deepening of existing navigational channels. The improvements will make it possible for ships to take significantly larger loads through the canal from East Asia to U.S. Gulf ports and ports along the Eastern Seaboard which could impact West Coast port activity.

"The issue is how much of an advantage does the Panama Canal give shippers like Wal-Mart and Home Depot in getting their goods to their final destinations," said Venieris. "It’s important for our ports because if there are no containers coming in, there’s no business and then there’s no money. It’s not only the ports that will be affected, but also the railroads, trucking, warehouses…pretty much all businesses involved in international trade.”

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