Japan is the largest export market for U.S. corn and among the top for other U.S. agricultural products. The expansion of Japan's import capacity is crucial for expanding U.S. markets and would also reduce transportation costs. This added capacity will also become increasingly important when the Panama Canal exapansion is completed in 2014.
Panamax vessels generally have an overall length of 950 feet and width of 106 feet, but their size is limited by the length and width of the available lock chambers, by the depth of the water in the Canal, by and the height of the Bridge of the Americas.
In November, the council's corn mission visited the Port of Kushiro, Japan's largest port facility. The Port is located in Hokkaido, the heart of Japan's major dairy producing area. The mission met with Dr. Tetsuya Hayakawa, the director of MLIT's Kushiro Port Office, who explained that the port was selected by MLIT as one of the eight ports designated to undergo a massive expansion in an effort to remain competitive internationally, by handling larger ships with a faster distribution process.
The councils request to expand Japan's offloading capacity is the first of its kind from an overseas organization, according to MLIT. The council is eager for Japan to begin accommodating larger vessels, as it ensures the Japanese will continue to be a reliable consumer of U.S. agricultural commodities.