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Jones visits Panama

Published 11:19pm Friday, September 27, 2013

Delegate Chris Jones (R-76) recently represented Suffolk — and all of Virginia — in Panama, where Southern legislators toured the Panama Canal expansion project and learned about the opportunities the expansion presents for ports and commerce in their states.

Jones and the rest of the delegation visited on Sept. 12, where they met the director of the Panama Canal Authority, received a briefing on the expansion effort and its importance in the transfer of cargo, and toured the tower where the current locks are controlled.

“The expansion is going to, in essence, triple the size of the ships that can call on port,” Jones said. “That’s going to have a huge impact on the East Coast.”

Jones said the Port of Virginia is ideally situated with its 50-foot channel, which beats all other East Coast ports and is best suited for the larger ships that will be able to navigate the expanded canal.

“We’re situated very nicely right now, but we need to continue to go to 55 feet eventually,” Jones said. “We need to work on rail. The amount of cargo going out on rail has increased pretty dramatically in the last year and a half and will continue to do so. We’ve got to be prepared to handle that volume.”

The delegation, organized by the Southern Legislative Conference, also met with officials at the U.S. Embassy in Panama to discuss the economic impact of the expansion and the Free Trade Agreement between the United States and Panama.

Besides Jones, legislators from Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee attended.

“It was a wonderful opportunity to see firsthand the canal’s expansion and to marvel at the genius of our forefathers and their vision,” Jones said. “Once completed the expanded canal will have a dramatic impact on the Port of Virginia and our economy.”

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