The Soy Transportation Coalition (STC) and the Panama Canal Authority recently extended a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the two organizations. The agreement, signed by STC chairman Mike Bellar and Panama Canal Authority chief executive officer Jorge L. Quijano, extends the partnership between the two organizations to perform joint promotional events and exchange information in the effort to raise awareness of the Panama Canal’s role as a key link in the agricultural supply chain.
The original MOU was signed in May 2011. At the time, while the Panama Canal Authority had signed MOUs with numerous port authorities – both U.S. and international – the agreement with STC was the first signed with an organization representing a commodity or product that utilizes the canal. The MOU was subsequently extended in 2013. STC officials, at the invitation of the Panama Canal Authority, attended both the 100th anniversary celebration of the Panama Canal in 2014 and the grand opening of the expanded canal in 2016. The authority also hosted the STC board of directors during STC’s 2015 annual meeting.
"The Panama Canal remains an important link in the soybean logistics chain,” explained Bellar, a soybean farmer from Howard, Kan. "In calendar year 2018, 194 million bu. (5.2 million metric tons) of U.S. soybeans transited the Panama Canal en route to our international customers. Extending our memorandum of understanding will help maintain our productive relationship with the Panama Canal Authority.”
"U.S. farmers have long relied upon the Panama Canal to meet the demands of their international customers,” Quijano said. “This MOU affirms our desire to enhance this mutually beneficial partnership between the Panama Canal Authority and U.S. soybean farmers. We welcome the opportunity to continue our relationship with the Soy Transportation Coalition.”
STC recently publicized research on potential developments that present the likelihood of increasing the volume of U.S. soybeans transiting the Panama Canal. The first report, released in July 2018, examines the impact of dredging the lower Mississippi River to 50 ft. By deepening this export region that accounts for 60% of soybean exports, ocean vessels will be able to transport more bushels of soybeans per vessel – thus enhancing international competitiveness. Some of these larger vessels could potentially utilize the Panama Canal en route to Asian customers.
The second report, released in November 2018, highlights the potential for containerized shipping via the U.S. inland waterway system to ultimately be exported via the Plaquemines Port, Harbor & Terminal District near the Gulf of Mexico. If this innovative concept becomes a reality, the Panama Canal would play an integral role in this new transportation option for the soybean industry.