What Will the Panama Canal Expansion Mean for Forklift Accessories?

panama canal expansion and forklift accessories

Photo courtesy Jean-Phillippe Boulet via Wikimedia Commons

When the Panama Canal expansion project is completed next year, it is expected to have a profound effect on the global supply chain. But could it also result in the increased use of forklift accessories?

The answer is “yes”.

The $5.25 billion project will add a third set of locks to the century-old Panama Canal and will deepen and widen its existing infrastructure so that it can accommodate larger cargo ships. Currently, the largest ships that can pass through the canal carry just 5,000 twenty-food equivalent units (TEUs). But when the expansion is completed, the canal will be able to accommodate super-sized “Panamax” ships that can carry to 13,000 TEUs.

Changing the Supply Chain

Panama’s decision to expand the canal — which was approved by national referendum in 2006 — has changed the face of supply chain all over the world. Because huge cargo ships from Asia are no longer forced to dock at West Coast ports, cities all up and down the East Coast are enlarging and deepening channels to make way for the enormous ships, including ports in Savannah, Charleston, Miami, Jacksonville, Baltimore and Philadelphia.

But it doesn’t stop there. Inland ports such as Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta and Columbus are expected to see an increase in traffic thanks to the expanded mobility of Panamax cargo ships.

And then there’s the anticipated impact on rail traffic. Now that the Panama Canal expansion is allowing more options for the Asia-to-North America supply chain, some analysts predict that rail and sea transport may overtake trucking and air as the primary routes for cargo.

Impact on Forklift Attachments

To understand what all this has to do with forklift attachments, you only have to go back to the beginning and the end of the supply chain. In the 21st Century, most cargo is transported from its point of origin to its ultimate destination in cargo containers.

The expansion of the Panama Canal means that more cargo containers will be able to move faster, cheaper and more efficiently back and forth between the world’s biggest trading partners, primarily China and the US, but also Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Improved mobility of cargo containers has spurred the construction of more and bigger distribution centers both on the East Coast and in Midwest cities like Chicago that have the benefit of both a centralized location and modern, efficient access to air, rail, truck and water transport routes.

When cargo containers reach these distribution centers, their contents are then offloaded, broken down and organized for fulfillment to their end-users, such as retail stores, parts distributors and so on.

Specialized equipment — such as forklifts equipped with hoppers, booms, carpet poles, coil rams, drum attachments and other forklift accessories — are required to facilitate this process.

A Simple Equation

So the equation is a simple one: More cargo means more forklift accessories.

It’s been 100 years since the US government picked up the pieces of France’s failed 19th Century efforts to burrow a passage through the Panamanian isthmus and completed the original canal in 1914. That project changed the face of global trade forever.

Now with this latest expansion and modernization of the canal, the entire supply chain — from Panamax cargo ships to forklift accessories — are expected to benefit.


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