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Brazilian investors buy Miami real estate. Haitian earthquake survivors attend South Florida schools. It's clear what happens in Latin America and the Caribbean has a profound effect on South Florida.WLRN’s coverage of the region is headed by Americas editor Tim Padgett, a 23-year veteran of TIME and Newsweek magazines.He joins a team of reporters and editors at the Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald and NPR to cover a region whose cultural wealth, environmental complexity, vast agricultural output and massive oil reserves offer no shortage of important and fascinating stories to tell.

PortMiami Goes Post-Panamax: Massive Ships Now Arriving From Panama Canal

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Tim Padgett
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WLRN.org
PortMiami gantry cranes unload the post-Panamax container ship MOL Majesty after its arrival via the Panama Canal on Saturday.

The wider Panama Canal opened two weeks ago – servicing more massive post-Panamax ships. On Saturday PortMiami received its first vessel of that kind from the Canal. And it may mean a new era for Miami as a world commercial hub.

The Chinese ship MOL Majesty measures almost a thousand feet long and 150 feet wide. Larger than any cargo ship PortMiami has ever seen. Post-Panamax ships like the Majesty can carry three times the cargo of ordinary vessels. And PortMiami was recently dredged down to 50 feet to accommodate them.

The port’s new gantry cranes were unloading the Majesty’s containers Saturday as local leaders like Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez gathered beneath the mammoth boat. Gimenez hailed its arrival – and the port’s $2 billion expansion.

“We are the cruise capital of the world," Gimenez said. "And today we mark the beginning of maybe being the cargo capital of the world too. And what does that mean? J-O-B-S. Thousands of jobs.”

Panama Canal Director Jorge Quijano said even bigger ships are yet to come.

“I’m very thrilled to tell you that yes, this is a small vessel compared to what you will see in the future," Quijano said. "A vessel almost twice as big as this just transited the Panama Canal, and I hope that I see that vessel start hitting Miami very soon here.”

Miami’s post-Panamax era is starting, however, amid a big slump in international trade.