Panama Canal sets tonnage record, devises master plan
The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) said Friday that the tonnage of ships that transiting the canal during its 2005 fiscal year increased 5.4 percent to a record 279.1 million Panama Canal/universal measurement system tons, with trade between Asia and the U.S. East Coast expected to rise 12 percent each year.
The ACP’s fiscal year runs from October to the end of September.
ACP said total transits in the fiscal year was steady at 14,011 from 14,035 in fiscal year 2004.
Canal waters time, defined as the average time it takes a vessel to navigate the canal including waiting time for passage, declined 7.8 percent to 24.58 hours from 26.66 hours in the last fiscal year. However, ACP said that time for booked vessels, now accounting for more than 50 percent of oceangoing transits, remained at 16.40 hours.
A survey conducted by the ACP, polling 55 shipping lines, 35 shipping agents and 825 vessel captains, predicted that trade between Asia and the U.S. East Coast will grow at a rate of 12 percent each year.
The Panama Canal’s capacity is now at approximately 93 percent and the ACP said that it is devising a long-term “Master Plan” to work out how to handle the anticipated trade growth, and most significantly decide whether or not to expand the Canal to accept post-Panamax vessels.
“Although there is currently not a final decision on whether to expand the waterway, the potential project could involve the construction of a new set of locks that would create a third lane of traffic, serving to increase current capacity and afford a wider passage for larger vessels,” the ACP said.