The Panama Canal welcomed a record 403.8 million Panama Canal tons (PC/UMS) of cargo in fiscal year 2017, the largest amount of annual tonnage ever transited in its 103-year history.
As explained, the 22.2 percent increase from the previous year can be directly attributed to the added capacity provided by the Expanded Canal, thanks to the larger Neopanamax vessels.
According to figures, a total of 13,548 vessels traversed the waterway during FY17, representing a 3.3 percent increase compared to totals the year before.
“These record figures reflect not only the industry’s confidence in the Expanded Canal, but also illustrate the Panama Canal’s continued ability to transform the global economy and revitalize the maritime industry,” Jorge L. Quijano, Panama Canal Administrator, commented.
The Panama Canal currently serves 29 major liner services, including 15 Neopanamax liner services, primarily on the US East Coast to Asia trade route.
The container segment continued to serve as the leading market segment of tonnage through the Canal, accounting for 35.3 percent of the total cargo received. This equated to a total 143 million tons PC/UMS, of which 89.1 million tons transited the Expanded Canal. Tankers – which include liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers – represented the following market segment (105 million PC/UMS).
The next leading segments included bulk carriers (79 million PC/UMS) and vehicle carriers (47 million PC/UMS).
In FY17, the main routes using the Panama Canal were between Asia and the US East Coast (34 percent), the West Coast of South America and the US East Coast (13 percent), the West Coast of South America and Europe (7 percent), the West Coast of Central America and the US East Coast (7 percent) and intercoastal South America (5 percent).
The countries of China, Chile, Japan, Mexico and Colombia were some of the top users of the Panama Canal, while the United States continued to be the main user of the waterway representing the origin or destination for 68.3 percent of the total cargo transiting the Canal, according to the Panama Canal Authority.
The impact of the Expanded Panama Canal was also apparent in many ports along the US East Coast, which were able to welcome the larger Neopanamax ships from the canal and saw increased growth.
As the shipping industry continues to adapt to the Expanded Canal, the Panama Canal is working to bolster the capabilities of the waterway through various infrastructure projects aimed at providing greater connectivity and transshipment opportunities to the region.
Specifically, the Panama Canal maintains plans to concession a roll-on roll-off (RoRo) terminal to serve as a center for the redistribution of vehicles, machinery and heavy equipment and a 1,200-hectares logistics park to further strengthen the logistics services in the region, among other projects.
The 2017 fiscal year began on October 1, 2016, and ended on September 30, 2017.