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I wonder why US ports are too small? Anyone know?

Also curious that the Suez canal is wider than the Panama?

It just means that the waterways are currently too narrow or too shallow for such increasingly massive ships, either naturally or because the deepening simply hasn't caught up to the increasing size of cargo vessels. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is involved with many port dredging projects to make the navigable waterways deeper and wider.[1] There has always been an iterative relationship between size/draft of ships and width/depth of waterways -- in fact, the size of many ships the world over is constrained for practical purposes by the size of the Panama Canal.[2]

The US government has been improving ports since its early days. In fact, the expenditure of federal funds on "internal improvements" such as port improvements was quite the contentious issue in the early republic.[3] But most of the world's trade moves by sea, and the US is and always has been a maritime nation.[4] The ROI for port improvements is laughably high, so it has always been a no-brainer.

[1] http://dqm.usace.army.mil/Education/Index.aspx

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panamax

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internal_improvements

[4] http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/geopolitics-united-states-p...

The largest cargo ships are now built against the constraints of the Suez Canal (based on its draft and a bridge on the route), as the Panama canal constraints are much more limiting.



Sure, but many of the ships out there today were not built so recently.

The Suez is sea level, so there are no locks.

Panama is working on a new set of locks and other expansions (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panama_Canal_expansion_projec...) that will allow for post-Panamax ships.

There's also going the be a new competing canal in Nicaragua to be started in December this year.


Not for triple Es though, new panamax is 366m length, 49m beam and 15.2m draft.

Triple Es are 400m long and 59m wide, though their draft fits hair-tight (14.5m)

Cranes, ports in the Americas don't have cranes with the reach to unload the wide ship. Some EU and Asian cranes had to be replaced and their teams retrained, but US port technology lags significantly behind Europe's and Asia's. The two unions representing dockworkers have fought to minimize automation which means more time in port which makes it less attractive to the ship companies. Progress is being though made and hopefully US can catch up in the next few years.

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