CPKC President and CEO Keith Creel sees a unique opportunity to grow the railroad’s intermodal business but not in the U.S. or Canada — in Panama.
With drought conditions in the Panama Canal expected to persist this year, some shippers continuing to use the waterway are turning to rail service to keep containers flowing.
Creel recognized the growth potential for the Panama Canal Railway, which is co-owned by CPKC and Illinois-based Mi-Jack Products, a maker of heavy-lifting equipment.
“I never knew the Panama Canal [would] be facing what the Panama Canal is facing today relative to drought conditions,” Creel said in an address during the Midwest Association of Rail Shippers Winter Meeting in Lombard, Illinois, on Jan. 11.
The following day, shipping giant Maersk announced it would begin using the Panama Canal Railway to “safeguard customers’ supply chains.”
Prior to Maersk’s announcement, Creel, who became CEO of CPKC in April following Canadian Pacific’s acquisition of Kansas City Southern, said as he familiarized himself with KCS, he learned the railroad had a 50% stake in the Panama Canal Railway. Now that KCS and Canadian Pacific are one company, it meant ownership now belonged to CPKC.
Maersk is a strategic partner for both CPKC and the Panama railroad, Creel said. The 47-mile-long Panama railroad runs parallel to the canal route, with capacity to run 10 trains in each direction 24-7 and potential to operate as many as 32 trains daily.
The Panama railroad opens doors to secure additional business from other container shippers, he said.
“That again is a unique and very complimenting service opportunity,” Creel said, adding that “crises and challenges become opportunities.”