The first wave of enormous boats chugged through the Panama Canal’s newly-expanded locks over the weekend, marking the end of a multi-billion construction project that escalated the push in Georgia to deepen Savannah’s port.
Georgia leaders long argued the Canal expansion, which allows much larger generation of container ships to cut through the isthmus, holds tantalizing promise for Savannah’s bustling port and the state’s economy. But, as the AJC’s Dan Chapman reports, the Canal’s expansion could have a murkier economic impact on trade in Georgia.
More cargo, revenue and jobs will come Georgia’s way, backers say, with metro Atlanta and its welter of warehouses and trucking terminals taking the lion’s share of new business. Or maybe not.
“No one knows with absolute certainty what it means for Georgia and the East Coast,” said Griff Lynch, incoming executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, who’s in Panama for the festivities. “But people feel confident that there will be some incremental growth to Savannah, Georgia, Atlanta and other locations in the Southeast.”
“Incremental” wasn’t the word used by enthusiasts in pushing the Savannah port project. They spoke instead of the canal expansion as a “game changer” that would lead to a “dramatic” increase in trade if only the Savannah River could be deepened to service larger container ships.
Gov. Nathan Deal’s office, not surprisingly, favors the more sweeping language. In a statement Monday, he said the dredging of Savannah’s port will increase Georgia’s competitive edge as it aims for the giant ships trucking through the Canal.
“The Port of Savannah is the leading East Coast trading partner with the Panama Canal, and today is a historic moment for both partners,” he said. “The close ties Georgia and Panama share have helped to make the Port of Savannah the success it is today.”