Panama Canal Expansion Highlights Need for Washington Port Enhancement

A week ago, Washington Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Bryant gave a speech at a rally held with New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez. Discussing challenges to Washington state, Bryant underscored the need to create and sustain family-supporting jobs throughout Washington while also noting incumbent Governor Jay Inslee’s cumbersome approach to capital infusions and project expansion in the state.

The comments were appropriately timed, considering other port projects continue to come online and increase the competition in this market. Notably, the Panama Canal last week moved forward with an infrastructure expansion—one more than ten years in the making—that will allow significantly larger cargo ships to travel from Asian countries on the Pacific Ocean all the way to East Coast ports. For the maritime shipping industry and all those peripheral trades that are contingent on it, this is certainly an industry-changing development.

But for Washington ports, this significant development is anything but positive news. The Evergreen State must now compete with East Coast ports on a scale never before seen. And while Washington continues to move slowly toward embracing its trade and export abilities, eager East Coast ports are capitalizing off this lack of development and eagerly stealing Washington’s potential customers.

Fortunately, it is not too late for Washington ports to turn the momentum around. With a slew of inherent advantages, such as close proximity to Asian countries, a host of natural deep-water ports, and inter-modal infrastructure stretching across the country, there is significant potential for the state to capitalize on its ports and remain a leader in trade.

With the Panama Canal’s expansion, it’s time Washington state read the writing on the wall. Let’s streamline the regulatory and permitting environment in Washington and take our rightful place as the go-to destination for Asian commerce.