panama canal ship Panama Canal

Panama Canal celebrates first year of expansion

Panama Canal has various future infrastructure projects planned.

In its first year of operations, the expanded Panama Canal set records and surpassed expectations, resulting in redrawn global trade routes and positive worldwide impact. The Panama Canal recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of the expanded canal, which was one of the most significant milestones in the history of the 102-year old waterway and the global maritime industry.

Vessels that transited the expanded canal on the anniversary received commemorative plaques.

“These transits are a testament to the global maritime industry’s confidence in the expanded canal,” Panama Canal administrator Jorge Quijano said. “The countless accomplishments set over the past year have surpassed even our own expectations for the project. We would like to thank everyone involved, from our customers to our highly skilled employees, for their role in making this year such a great success.”

Over the past 12 months, the performance of the expanded canal has exceeded original forecasts, as global trade routes have been redrawn, and the positive impact has been felt around the world.

Notable milestones include:

• More than 1,500 Neopanamax vessels transited the expanded canal. Container ships represent approximately 51.3% of traffic through the expanded canal, followed by LPG and liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers, which represent approximately 31.5% and 9.1%, respectively. Other segments such as bulk carriers, tankers, car carriers and passenger vessels have also transited the Neopanamax locks.

• Panama Canal tonnage increased by 22.2% compared to the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years.

• A total of 15 out of 29 liner services that use the Panama Canal now employ Neopanamax vessels to take advantage of the economies of scale offered by the expanded canal. The majority of these liner services connect ports in Asia and the U.S. East Coast.

• On average, 5.9 vessels transit the expanded canal per day, surpassing original forecasts of two to three daily transits for the first year of operation.

• More than 90% of the global LNG fleet can now transit the waterway for the first time in history, opening a new market and allowing LNG producers in the U.S. to ship natural gas to Asia at competitive prices.

• LPG traffic has grown exponentially since the inauguration of the expanded canal and is quickly becoming the second-biggest driver of Neopanamax traffic, accounting for 31.5% of transiting vessels.

• The Panama Canal launched the Green Connection Environmental Recognition Program, a new initiative that recognizes customers who demonstrate excellent environmental stewardship and encourages others to implement technologies and standards that reduce emissions. This program includes the Environmental Premium Ranking and the Green Connection Award.

• The expanded canal contributed to the reduction of 17 million tons of carbon dioxide during its first year of operation thanks to the shorter traveling distance and larger cargo carrying capacity it offers customers.

Together, these activities have led to a ripple effect on local and global economies that has had a positive impact on the international shipping industry as ports worldwide continue to invest in their infrastructure to accommodate the influx in Neopanamax traffic from the expanded canal, the Panama Canal said. “Investment has been particularly prevalent among U.S. East Coast ports, which have experienced strong growth and (are breaking) cargo records, providing a boost to their local economies.”

Similarly, the Panama Canal has experienced a record-breaking year of its own. Months into its operation, the waterway experienced both daily and monthly tonnage records thanks to the additional tonnage transported through the Neopanamax locks.

Today, the canal has various infrastructure projects planned to provide greater connectivity and transshipment opportunities to the region.

The Panama Canal has specific plans to concession a roll-on roll-off terminal to serve as a center for the redistribution of vehicles, machinery and heavy equipment, a 1,200-hectare logistics park to further strengthen the logistics services in the region and an LNG terminal on the Atlantic side of the waterway to provide LNG bunkering and redistribution capabilities. Also, the Panama Canal Authority will continue to advance plans for the Corozal Container Terminal.

Quijano said the one-year anniversary provided an opportunity to reflect on the canal’s strong performance to date and the industry’s widespread adoption of using the waterway. “Looking forward, the next decade will serve as a significant next chapter in the Panama Canal’s story as we continue to advance various infrastructure projects within the region to further position Panama as the logistics hub of the Americas — for the benefit of our customers and for the people of Panama,” he said.

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