The project to expand the Panama Canal, forecast for completion in April or May of 2016, promises to set off a series of innovations for the supply and logistics industry in the U.S. and beyond.

The expansion is a “game changer for U.S. trade,” say experts at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and at ICAT Logistics Detroit, we agree.

Starting with the basics, the enlarged canal will allow passage for massive freighters to the U.S. East and Gulf coasts. Those ships comprise about 16 percent of the world’s container fleet but they account for about half the fleet’s cargo capacity. Currently about 70 percent of the cargo reaching the U.S. is controlled by West Coast ports.

But that’s only the beginning.

Port cities along the East and Gulf costs will spend about $46 billion through 2016 to expand their multimodal cargo facilities and deepen their harbors. For example: the Port of Savannah is dredging its channel at a cost of $650 million; Baltimore will get a new CSX Railway intermodal rail transfer facility to move double-stacked trains from its port; and Miami is constructing two tunnels so that big-rig trucks entering or leaving the port can bypass downtown.

Meanwhile, across the nation, other intermodal and warehouse facilities are expanding — partly in anticipation of increased business for railways carrying cargo to new distribution centers and partly in response to the shortage of long-haul truckers.

There are a lot of pieces coming together at once.

We think 2016 will launch a new era for the global supply and logistics industry.

New jobs will be created where others have been lost. The redistribution of cargo entering and leaving the country is likely to keep shipping prices steady or reduce them over time. And new intermodal facilities will relieve some of the pressure on our bridges and roads, which are badly in need of relief. Goods will arrive faster, safer and, if all goes well, at less cost.

At ICAT Logistics Detroit, we work closely with our clients, suppliers and regulators to stay on top of changes in our industry and to make certain our customers benefit in the long haul. In 2016 a 102-year-old canal in Panama will be at the heart of change in our industry. ICAT Logistics has planned and is prepared to face those changes as they come.

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