CITT Presents Inaugural Point/Counterpoint Forum Oct. 6Published: October 1, 2010
Point/Counterpoint, a new educational forum from CSULB’s Center for International Trade and Transportation (CITT), will hold its inaugural event on Wednesday, Oct. 6, from 6-8:30 p.m., at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center.
The event, which is free and open to the public, is titled “Panama Canal Expansion: The Battle for Jobs and Cargo. Who Wins? Whose Loses? Who Decides?” It will bring together scholars as well industry experts and leaders to review the facts surrounding the canal’s expansion and offer their unique perspectives, as well as challenge existing assumptions concerning implications for West Coast ports, cargo volume and jobs.
To help bring clarity to the debate, Point/Counterpoint has scheduled a pair of speakers with knowledge of both the Panama Canal expansion and the shipping industry in general — Paul Bingham from Wilbur Smith Associates in Virginia, and Mary Brooks from Canada’s Dalhousie University in Halifax. (Full bio information on Bingham and Brooks)
“The Panama Canal expansion is one of those issues that everybody talks about, yet nobody is clear on the implications for the Southern California ports,” said CITT Executive Director Marianne Venieris. “When the expanded canal opens, importers will have to be aware of other trends that are emerging that could threaten cargo growth through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. On the other hand, some of these trends could end up favoring West Coast ports.”
The expanded Panama Canal is scheduled to open in 2014, which happens to coincide with the canal’s 100th anniversary. The expansion includes the construction of two new sets of locks — one on the Pacific and one on the Atlantic side of the canal. The expansion also entails the widening and deepening of existing navigational channels. The improvements will make it possible for ships to take significantly larger loads through the canal from East Asia to U.S. gulf ports and ports along the Eastern Seaboard which could impact West Coast port activity.
“The issue is how much of an advantage does the Panama Canal give shippers like Wal-Mart and Home Depot in getting their goods to their final destinations,” said Venieris. “It’s important for our ports because if there are no containers coming in, there’s no business and then there’s no money. It’s not only the ports that will be affected, but also the railroads, trucking, warehouses…pretty much all businesses involved in international trade.”
Point/Counterpoint, which Venieris hopes will become a regular event, is a follow-up to the popular annual CITT Town Hall meetings that concluded in 2009 after a successful 10-year run.
“This is our new signature event,” noted Venieris. “We felt there is a strong need to have good reliable information on specific topics allowing people to come to their own conclusions about them.”
In the town hall meetings, experts were brought in to give their perspective on a specific topic and then answer questions. The Point/Counterpoint series differs in that it deals with a pertinent issue of current interest to the goods movement industry where there are opposing opinions and better information would bring more clarity.
Generally, when you have a point/counterpoint format, it’s like a debate; however the CITT Point/Counterpoint series is an educational forum and the desired outcome is not to have a winner or loser of a debate, but rather to gain salient information from all angles.
“We’ll start with one perspective that draws from larger macro-economic trends and one that considers the factors that drive decision makers for individual shippers,” she said. “In the end everyone in the audience will be a winner because we’ll all be better informed.”
For industry and the community, good information matters. “A shipper needs to be aware of all of the factors that might influence price and transport time,” said Venieris. “We also want to make sure the community understands what’s in it for them, good or bad. If the goods don’t come through our ports some might say that’s good because there will be less traffic, but it also means fewer jobs here. They need to understand how much business is generated in this community because of the port activity. The objective here is to provide unbiased information. We want the facts and the true data to be presented.”