Panama Canal: Vessel traffic up, but saturation nears
The Panama Canal Authority reported Tuesday record shipping traffic for its fiscal year ending Thursday, and warned traffic is “nearing maximum capacity levels.”
During the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 262 million Panama Canal/Universal Measurement System units of cargo were shipped through the canal, an 8 percent increase over the previous fiscal year.
“This marked increase was primarily attributed to a rise in transits by Panamax-sized vessels, particularly containers,” the Panama Canal Authority reported.
In the latest fiscal year, 600 more Panamax-sized ships transited the canal, than in fiscal year 2003. These vessels have greater capacity, moving more containers in a single transit.
The warning may raise concerns among transpacific shippers who are already seeing port congestion and delays on the U.S. West Coast.
To increase the canal’s capacity, the authority has adopted a program that includes deepening Gatun Lake, widening the Gaillard Cut and rehabilitating the locomotive tow tracks. The authority is also studying a long-term plan to widen the canal.
The Transpacific Stabilization Agreement, a carrier grouping, said last week that the diversion of cargo to all-water U.S. East Coast service via the Panama Canal has reached saturation levels, with ships fully booked and some cargo being rolled to later sailings.