Thanks in large part to the newly expanded third lane of the Panama Canal that opened last summer, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) expects to see record tonnage passing through the important cargo gateway in the coming fiscal year, ACP said in a statement.
For fiscal year 2018, which begins Oct. 1, the authority is projecting record tonnage of 429.4 million tons, as well as 13,000 transits, including 2,335 Neopanamax vessels.
In FY 2016, the most recent year for which after-the-fact figures are available, the canal recorded 330.7 million tons and 13,114 vessel transits, which was the third highest in its history, even with only three full months of traffic through the expanded canal. The transit total included 238 Neopanamax vessels, which accounted for 18.2 million tons.
“The new land has not only performed well, it’s surpassed nearly all our original expectations,” Panama Canal Administrator Jorge L. Quijano said in a statement. “In a little over a year, the expanded Panama Canal helped to continually set records (and) redraw global trade routes.”
The expansion, which made its official debut June 26, 2016, saw tonnage increase 22 percent in the following 52 weeks, while 1,500 Neopanamax containerships transited the canal during the same time period.
An average of 5.9 vessels transited the expanded canal daily during the expansion’s debut year, according to ACP data, which was about double the original first-year forecasts of two to three daily transits.
In March, the canal authority announced it was implementing a new vessel scheduling system in order to deal with the surge of waiting times that coincided with the canal’s expansion and increased traffic flow. The new system is expected to be fully integrated into canal operations over the next two years, with vessel scheduling capabilities expected to be operational by the end of the current fiscal year next month.
“Our goal is to move forward with various infrastructure projects over the coming years that will provide added-value services to the maritime community,” Quijano said. “Some of the projects we aim to develop in the short term include the concession for the construction of a roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) cargo terminal and a logistic park in the Pacific. These new projects will enable Panama to fully take advantage of the opportunities the Expanded Canal has to offer.”
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