Tonnage of cargo flowing through the Panama Canal has risen to record levels following the opening of expanded facilities and use of more powerful tugs. The Panama Canal Authority said 403.8M tonnes had transited the canal, the highest volume in its 103-year history.
This represents a 22.2% increase in cargo volumes over the fiscal year ended 30 September compared with the 2016 fiscal year (FY2016). This is due to new canal infrastructure and new tugs enabling larger ships to transit between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and Caribbean.
During the last 12 months, 13,548 vessels transited the canal, which represented a 3.3% rise compared to FY2016. The size of vessels using the canal has also increased. In August 2017, post-panamax container ship CMA CGM Theodore Roosevelt, with 14,863 TEU became the largest ship to transit the canal to date. In September, Cosco Yantian was the 2,000th post-panamax ship transit.
New tugs have been chartered to assist with the transits. In May, Saam Smit Towage acquired new azimuth stern drive (ASD) tug, SST Portobelo, from Damen Shipyards to boost its Panama fleet. Meyers’ Group has ordered two ASD tugs from Damen to operate in the expanded Panama Canal.
Panama Canal Authority has introduced a planning and resource management system from Quintiq for better vessel scheduling and resource management. In September, the authority and other Panamanian organisations introduced Panama’s Maritime Single Window to streamline logistics administration for international customers.