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Group Banks on Profit from Panama Canal Upgrades

Posted on July 12, 2016

By Fatima Hussein,

The Ports of Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky is already one of the busiest inland ports in the nation.

And regional business leaders are planning for a substantial increase in waterborne traffic as a result of the recently completed expansion of the Panama Canal. Authorities in Panama celebrated the first ship to pass through the canal June 26 after a $5.5 billion, nearly decade-long upgrade.

The expansion project, which doubled the width of the 50-mile-long Panama Canal, connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It is expected to increase waterway traffic from the Southern United States up to Canada in the coming years, said Eric Thomas, director of the Central Ohio River Business Association. The canal opened Aug. 15, 1914.

“We’ve got a navigable waterway that a lot of major cities don’t have,” Thomas said. “Our region is blessed with a lot of things – the question is what are we doing with them.”

Thomas spoke to members of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and other business groups Friday about how to take advantage of recent developments in maritime business, including the Panama Canal expansion.

“How often do you see barges holding containers going through Cincinnati,” he said. “That needs to change.”

Thomas’ group represents an alliance of businesses engaged in river commerce on and along the Ohio River. The group wants to unite river businesses and industry to promote commerce for the Central Ohio River Valley Region.

To further that goal, the group led an effort to expand the regional port’s boundaries from 26 miles to 226.5 miles. The port redesignation, announced in 2015 includes all or part of 10 counties in Kentucky (Boone, Kenton, Campbell, Pendleton, Bracken, Mason, Lewis, Gallatin, Carroll and Trimble) and five counties in Ohio (Hamilton, Clermont, Brown, Adams and Scioto).

The Ports of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky has been ranked as the 13th busiest port in the United States and the busiest inland port in the nation, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Navigation Data Center.

“There are some great opportunities for us here, and we need to take advantage of them – as soon as we can,” Thomas said.


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