PICKENS COUNTY — A delegation of state legislative leaders from five states, including Rep. Neal Collins from Pickens County, recently traveled to Panama for briefings on the upcoming Panama Canal expansion project.
“(There is a) need for continued investments in South Carolina’s ports so that the state remains competitive in attracting traffic once the expansion of the Panama Canal is completed,” said Collins. “The expansion of the canal will be nothing but beneficial to South Carolina, especially so to Charleston.”
According to the Southern Office of the Council of State Governments, the delegation agenda was designed to “reinforce the need for Southern ports to continue essential infrastructure enhancements to accommodate the significantly larger vessels and expanded cargo volumes expected to arrive after the completion of the Panama Canal expansion.”
“For more than a decade, the SLC has focused on the critical role played by Southern ports in Georgia the economic calculations of the Southern region and the nation as a whole,” said Collins. “Upon completion in 2016, the Panama Canal will facilitate an even greater flow of trade between Asia and the Americas and substantially impact the volume of trade reaching Gulf and Atlantic Coast ports in the United States.”
In the last year alone, South Carolina’s exports to Panama totaled more than $67.9 million.
The delegation’s scheduled meetings began with a series of briefings by the Panama Canal Transportation & Cultural Affairs Authority and a tour of the Canal and expansion project.
“It was a crazy schedule,” said Collins. “We (the delegation) arrived late Wednesday night and we began first thing Thursday morning. We ran from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday. Friday we began even earlier. But it was amazing. Jam packed.”
Collins was the only representative from South Carolina included in the delegation.
The group also had a chance to visit the U.S. Embassy in Panama for a briefing on U.S.-Panama political, economic and social linkages. The briefing included discussion on the expected impact of the canal’s expansion to the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that was signed into law in October 2011.
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.