This post first appeared on FloatingPath

In 2007, expansion work begun on the Panama Canal to allow ships two to three times bigger to pass from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic. While seemingly beneficial for anyone east of the canal, some are claiming the project is all for not and the U.S. east coast may see little, if any added benefit. Jean-Paul Rodrigue, professor of global studies and geography at Hofstra University, is one of the naysayers.

“They believe their own expansion will bring in business and new trade,” he said. “But It won’t create trade and if you look at U.S. port traffic over the last few years, it’s been leveling off.”

The maritime shipping industry, of course, doesn’t see it the same way.

“It can cost a lot to unload in Los Angeles and put goods on a truck and ship East,” said Bob McMillian, chairman of the Panama Canal Commission in 1993. There’s no doubt in my mind that it will be cheaper to transport goods through the canal to the East Coast,” he said.

Whatever the outcome, one thing that’s for certain is U.S. ports will be ready for larger ships as massive projects are underway up and down the coast.

In New Jersey, the Port Authority plans to raise the Bayonne Bridge about 60 feet higher to allow the larger ships to pass. In South Carolina $2 billion will be spent over the next 10 years to upgrade the port, and Miami officials have allocated over $2 billion to port work and a massive underwater tunnel to accommodate increased truck traffic.

Panama Canal