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The Panama Canal is in the process of expanding to handle super cargo ships.
The Geo -Political Realities of Super Ports on the Mississippi River
In the world of geography, location is everything. As the global markets restructure in the 21st Century, new trade routes are being planned and established. Global recessions, changing middle class purchasing patterns, extreme weather, wars and threats of wars are forcing exporting nations to review their options.
China is reviewing how it ships it goods into the changing markets of the U.S. Now, most of the far eastern trade comes into Southern California at massive container ports. Shipping to the West Coast means added costs for rail and truck transport.
This trade route is about to be changed. In 2014, a new Panama Canal channel will be completed to allow the new super container ships to pass from the Pacific into the waters of the Caribbean.
These massive ships will hold between 8,000 to 12,000 containers. Each container is 40 ft. long by 10 ft. wide by 10 ft. high.  Ports of New Orleans, Tampa, Houston, and Mobile will have to be redesigned to handle this new market opportunity.   
Cates Landing was being built, in part, to allow West Tennessee and Kentucky to have a role to play in the massive wave of Far East container shipping flowing into American markets. Cates Landing was being planned to be the northernmost port on the Mississippi River for off loading these large container barges coming up from New Orleans.
With the loss of federal funds, the future of Cates Landing is now in doubt. Major market concerns are now looking at other potential off loading sites in the region. The port of Hickman is not suited for handling large numbers of container shipping barges unless massive new federal and or state funding is found to rebuild the port. In today’s lean budget situations, that option is not available.
That leaves two possible sites for the construction of a new major port on the Mississippi River: Ballard County, Kentucky and Cairo, Illinois. Already, plans are underway in Ballard County, Kentucky to build a new port for barge traffic. The project is in design stage. Unfortunately, this project will also need massive amounts of state and federal aid.
Cairo, Illinois could be the winner from the Cates Landing news concerning the fate of a major new barge port to be built on the Mississippi river. Several business sources and at least one major financial group are exploring the potential of turning Cairo into the northernmost docking and off loading port for large barge commerce coming up from New Orleans. 
The political realities of Cates Landing and the recent pull back of rural development funding for Columbus, Kentucky may suggest that the states of Tennessee and Kentucky are out of favor with this new Washington DC administration.   
With Senators like Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning, Kentucky is becoming a daily embarrassment to the White House. With the Congressional and governor’s race in Tennessee moving into Republican and Tea Party far right wing politics, the White House has little to lose with not supporting Tennessee Projects.
A strong case can be made that a large port at Cairo, Illinois would meet President Obama’s promise to bring new jobs into the most depressed parts of America. The building of a port could involve up to 5,000 jobs.
 Besides, Illinois is playing to his home base. Think 2012 elections. Is it better strategically to win Illinois or Kentucky and Tennessee? Bets are the President has already lost these two southern states for 2012. Just think what 50 million dollars could do for Southern Illinois and the re election chances for the President.

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