The widened Panama Canal will definitely benefit the global shipping industry, but industry insiders differ as to the benefits for Hong Kong and mainland Chinese shippers.
Willy Lin Sun-mo, the chairman of the Hong Kong Shippers’ Council, said the benefits to local shippers would not be that great.
He said although bigger ships would be able to pass through the canal, the number would still be limited because of the limits of the lock system.
Lin estimated that Hong Kong and mainland shippers that did use the canal to reach the US east coast might save US$500 to US$600 per 40-foot equivalent units and save seven days of transport time.
“This may help China and Hong Kong exporters but the impact will not be very substantial and will depend on whether the shipments are time-sensitive,” he said.
Song said that in the short term the expansion would worsen the oversupply of global dry bulk shipping capacity. “There may be more idle time for ships, which is not good news for shippers,” he said.
Song said container shipping would benefit because of shorter travel times, which would lead to lower shipping costs. “But if the Panama Canal charges more because of the expansion, there may not be cost savings,” he said.