Panama Canal expansion could spell doom for local ports

A new multi-billion dollar expansion of the Panama Canal could spell doom for the Port of Seattle and Port of Tacoma.

The new canal, which opened Sunday, accommodates wider container ships, and experts say the local ports should be nervous.

The concern is that the $5.25 billion Panama Canal expansion will allow container ships to bypass Seattle or Tacoma altogether.

Every day, thousands of containers that come in on ships are picked up by cranes, then are loaded on to trucks and rail cars to be delivered all around the country.

Ships come from Asia arrive in Seattle, then are trucked or trained to the East Coast.

But this new, expanded Panama Canal will give shipping companies the choice of bypassing local ports, going through the canal and all the way to East Coast ports instead.

That would shorten the one-way trip from Asia to the East Coast by roughly five days.

According to a recent report, the expansion could shift about 10 percent of the Asia-to-U.S. container traffic from West Coast ports to East Coast terminals by 2020.

The Port of Seattle is already feeling the squeeze from increasing competition for business.

We have to really be at the top of our game to be a competitive gateway,” said Port of Seattle Commissioner John Creighton.

The Port of Seattle is trying to get approval for a $200 million dollar expansion that would double the number of mega-container ships the port could handle.

The new Panama Canal expansion is putting even more pressure on Commissioners now.