Incorporated in 1909 under the name of Harrison, Panama City acquired its current name during the construction of the Panama Canal. A developer who noticed that the community was located on a direct line between Chicago and the original Panama City renamed it to capitalize on the fame of the canal.
Panama City’s Wainwright Shipyard built and launched 102 Liberty Ships and six tankers during World War II, and in 1967 the port’s first deepwater port and 40,000-square-foot (3,700-square-meter) warehouse were built. The port of Panama City is located on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, with easy access to the Gulf of Mexico through a 9-mile (14-kilometer) channel.
The value of cargo handled at the port increased sixfold from fiscal 2003 to 2009. Principal cargoes include copper, linerboard, wood pulp, steel products, wood pellets, and liquid bulk, including molasses and d-limonene, a citrus-peel extract used in cleaning products.
Since 2005, Mott MacDonald has performed a variety of services for the port. In that year alone, we provided design and construction management for new shipping berths, warehouses, crane and rail projects, dredging, and permitting.
Wood pellet storage terminal
In 2006, we were retained to specify and design an 80,000-square-foot (7,400-square-meter) storage terminal for wood pellets. Because stored wood pellets can generate heat, a highly sensitive smoke and heat detection system was installed.
The design included a new rail track spur, a railcar unloading station, motor control building, office/control room building, and a dry bulk conveyance system. As a separate project, we are helping create a stackable container storage yard with provisions for refrigerated units.
Port railroad enhancement
In 2007, we provided site planning, civil engineering, project bidding, and construction administration for rail track improvements. This includes the relocation and replacement of multiple rail switch components, realignment of track with a relocated spill pan, and the maintenance of rail operations during construction.
Port stevedore buildings
In 2008, we designed a service facility for the port’s stevedore operations. This included three office/maintenance units integrated into one building footprint, high bay units with roll-up doors for vehicle maintenance, storage space above office units, and a maintenance pit for servicing forklifts.
Port container freight station building
Also in 2008, we designed a loading/unloading facility for the US Customs and Border Control Agency. Used to quarantine agricultural shipments for inspection, the facility was constructed on an existing open-air shipment dock and includes internal quarantine areas with limited access for short- and long-term storage. A six-bay loading dock allowed the building to be constructed about two feet above the existing grade.
Container yard expansion
In 2010, we planned and implemented a redesigned container yard storage expansion area and truck facilities for port operations. Mott MacDonald also enhanced the existing master stormwater facilities, adding a “Bay Saver” stormwater filter that filters debris from the conveyance system before it is discharged to St. Andrews Bay.
Over the years, our improvements to the port have increased efficiency, improved safety, streamlined agricultural imports, and helped safeguard local waterways.
According to the Port Authority, “Based on the continual 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.”
Improvements to the port will help Panama City take advantage of opportunities such as the planned opening of the expanded Panama Canal in 2014, the growth of Latin American and Caribbean markets, and the diversion of Asian trade from congested West Coast ports.