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Panama Canal Expansion Boosts Freight in an Unexpected Place
The Panama Canal opened a new lane for larger ships this week, and East Coast ports have been expanding efforts to attract Asian imports that would otherwise arrive on the West Coast. The canal expansion has run into plenty of obstacles along the way, and many East Coast ports still aren’t ready to accommodate the larger ships.
Expansion at the Panama Canal, pictured above, has led to a business boom in South Carolina. Photo by Stan Shebs.
But the South Carolina freight market has already gotten a boost thanks to the expansion, and the industrial boom has been evident on DAT Load Boards. Greenville, SC, rose to 11th place for the number of van load posts last year, and its average load-to-truck ratio in 2015 was higher than any other “top 30” market. Last week’s load-to-truck ratio in Greenville rose to 7.4, well above the national average of 2.7 loads per truck.
Warehouses and industrial parks continue to grow in and around Greenville and Spartanburg, according to the Wall Street Journal, and more goods are expected to arrive from the Port of Charleston, some 200 miles away.
Cities from the Gulf Coast to New York are also trying to lure more Asian imports once the canal opens. Economists and developers say the Upstate’s low labor costs and acres of cheap, undeveloped land, give the region an edge. They also cite its manufacturing base, as the auto industry draws suppliers to locate closer to factories, and growing auto exports require bigger ocean vessels to reach customers around the world.
The expanded Panama Canal “is going to drive industry and create even more businesses there,” said Joel Sutherland, director of the Supply Chain Management Institute at the University of San Diego. “Having a regular flow of containers…will attract major manufacturing, then their suppliers, then their suppliers’ suppliers, and ultimately more people.”
The rates are also trending up. The top outbound lane from Greenville is a short hop over to Atlanta. That lane paid an average of $3.09 per mile last week, which is 20¢ higher than it was a month ago.
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