Saturday, November 12, 2011

SMART: Maryland Positions Baltimore to Hijack Virginia's Shipping Business // Panama Canal Widening for More Ships

Maryland Juice in the waters that feed the Panama Canal
Maryland Juice had the opportunity to earn and burn some airline miles this year and chose to visit Panama and its amazing canal. While there, I discovered the amazing role the Panama Canal plays in the global economy, and how plans to widen the channel and increase shipping volume are vital to that nation's future success.

Notably, the Canal widening was put to a popular vote and was supported nearly unanimously. It turns out that Maryland has been slowly positioning itself to take advantage of the Canal widening to grease economic growth in the future. It also turns out that Virginia's port of Norfolk may have been caught off guard by our strategy.  The Baltimore Sun's Michael Dresser had a great story on the Baltimore vs. Norfolk port rivalry. Hat tip to a cowardly source for sending us the article:
Maryland Juice @ Panama Canal
It was just one headline among many of its kind in The Baltimore Sun during the 1980s and 1990s: "Baltimore loses round to Va...."

During those decades, the port of Baltimore lost a lot of rounds, and few months went by without an article about a business deserting the city for the dynamic powerhouse to the south.

But things have changed. 
The shipping business here is rebounding vigorously from the worldwide recession, thanks to a strategic decision to de-emphasize containerized cargo — an area in which the port was losing badly — and to go after other goods.

Billions of dollars' worth of coal, autos and other cargo will pass through Baltimore this year, and the port is preparing for the giant container ships that will begin using a widened Panama Canal in 2014. The city's cruise business is also growing steadily; the port announced this month that more than 212,000 passengers have boarded in 2011, which will be a third-straight record year.

Meanwhile, its Virginia rival has been going through a period of turmoil and self-doubt as its recovery has lagged. The industry bible, The Journal of Commerce, recently stuck Norfolk with the label of "underperforming" — a description Baltimore seemed to own during the 1990s....

Over the first six months of this year, the value of the cargo crossing the docks in Norfolk rose 18 percent from the year before, to $13.8 billion. But during that same period, the port of Baltimore handled $11.2 billion in cargo — almost a 40 percent increase from the first half of 2010. Norfolk slipped one spot in the ranking of U.S. ports, to seventh, while Baltimore improved to ninth, the state said.... 
Whatever moves Norfolk makes to regain its old swagger, Baltimore's port no longer seems intimidated by its southern rival.
In hindsight, I have been noticing a lot more Carnival Cruise ads for Baltimore departures.

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