Port Panama City land includes the core 138 acre Port property on Dyers Point, just off US 98 at the southwestern boundary of the City of Panama City, in Bay County, and the 250 acre Intermodal Distribution Center, about 10 miles to the northeast on US 231.
Port Panama City is situated on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, which bisects St. Andrew Bay. The Port has easy access to the Gulf of Mexico by means of an 8.9–mile channel that runs from St. Andrew Pass (known as the West Pass) to the Port. To accommodate today’s larger ocean carriers, the Port has completed the deepening of its channel and berthing areas to 36 feet.
The Port’s cargo base consists of imported, exported, and domestic (coastwise) general cargo and bulk cargo. Primary general cargos include copper, linerboard, wood pulp, steel plate, steel pipe, steel coils and flexible pipe. In addition, containerized cargo service between Progreso, Mexico, and Port Panama City continues to be a vital part of the Port’s cargo base. The Port’s primary bulk commodities include dry bulk, such as wood pellets, aggregates, and liquid bulk, such as molasses and d’limonene. The mix of commodities moving through the Port varies from year to year, depending on local and foreign market demand and the operations of major Port tenants and other local users. Forest product exports and copper imports continue to be a major part of the Port’s cargo operations. To protect Port revenues from a dependence on just a few commodities, the Port has diversified its cargo mix with the addition of new container facilities and an 80,000–square–foot multibulk terminal. The value of the cargo handled at the Port has grown substantially between FY 2003 and FY 2009, increasing six–fold, the result, in part, because of the Port’s handling of copper, but also the addition of higher–value containerized cargo. Based on the continued facility improvements going forward, the Port expects to increase its cargo tonnage to an annual level of approximately 2.1 to 2.4 million tons over the next five years. The desired tonnage mix would be divided in nearly equal proportions of general cargo and bulk commodities.
Despite worldwide economic fluctuations and the shrinking US dollar in relation to other currencies, positive events and trends in international trade are on the horizon for the nation’s Gulf and Atlantic Coast seaports, including Port Panama City. Among these are the planned opening of the expanded Panama Canal in 2014, the strengthening of markets in Central and South America, and trade agreements with many of the countries in those regions, including the Caribbean. From Port Panama City’s perspective, the growth of Latin American and Caribbean markets represents a favorable opportunity, as almost two-thirds of the Port’s current commodities come from these markets. Seaports on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts are seeing a diversion of Far East trade from congested West Coast ports and are building the infrastructure needed to accommodate expanded liner service from China and other Asian countries. The forecasted strong growth of containerized imports into the Gulf and South Atlantic — not just from China, but also from Latin America, India, and other parts of the world — represents another opportunity for Port Panama City’s future container throughput. The Port is not targeting the biggest of the ships that will be carrying these containers, but sees a positive niche for itself among the smaller ships that will continue transporting consumer goods to expanding markets in the regional hinterland.
Planned Improvements and Capital Improvement Program
To realize its mission and fulfill its goals and objectives over the next five years, the Port has elected to pursue capital improvement projects in four basic areas:
- Bulkhead maintenance and rehabilitation
- General cargo facility expansion, including phased container–handling improvements
- Bulk cargo terminal expansion
- Intermodal distribution center development and promotion
In addition to capital improvements, the Port is focused on two non–physical objectives:
- Achieving regional synergies to promote economic development, and
- Emphasizing sustainability to protect the environment, enhance community well-being, and generate economic prosperity.