The Panama Canal expects to handle 17% more tonnage in fiscal year 2017 — the first full year of operations at the expanded waterway — compared with last fiscal year’s record high of 340.8 million Panama Canal tons, Panama Canal Administrator and CEO Jorge L. Quijano said.
“In the 50 days since inaugurating the canal expansion, we’ve received 289 reservations and transited 104 Neopanamax vessels, and these numbers continue to grow daily,” Quijano said.
The Panama Canal’s fiscal year runs from October to September.
Quijano said the Panama Canal Authority, also known as the ACP, is expected to handle “upwards of 399 million PC/UMS with an increase in five years to roughly 524 million PC/UMS.”
PC/UMS refers to the Panama Canal Universal Measurement System used to calculated a vessel’s total volume. A net Panama Canal ton is equivalent to 100 cubic feet of volumetric capacity.
JULY SEES 12% INCREASE IN TONNAGE AT CANAL; 7% RISE IN TRANSITS
In July, the first full calendar month since the expanded waterway was inaugurated on June 26, the canal recorded a 12% increase in tonnage and a 7% increase in transits compared with the same period a year ago, Quijano said.
This contributed to a 6% increase in overall revenue, he added.
According to the monthly canal operations report for July, 946 vessels transited the old and new locks at the Panama Canal, including 59 Neopanamax vessels.
“After 102 years, the Panama Canal is rejuvenated thanks to the beginning of operations of the expanded canal, ongoing maintenance of its original infrastructure, and the commitment of its workforce of 10,000 talented men and women who make this route one of the main arteries of world maritime trade,” Quijano said.
The ACP said that it has invested more than $3.3 billion in improvements at the original waterway in the past 17 years, such that the total amount of tonnage handled each year has grown from 228 million PC/UMS in FY 1999 to an all-time high of 340.8 million PC/UMS last fiscal year.
But much of the anticipated growth over the next five years is expected to be due to the expansion at the waterway, the ACP said.
As of now, traffic at the new locks has yet to reach the maximum design capacity.
Currently, there are only four booking slots offered daily for Neopanamax vessels as part of the “initial stages of operations” at the expanded canal, the ACP said.
“This number will eventually increase over time, and we believe that our maximum capacity will be approximately 12-13 transits per day,” the ACP said in an emailed reply to questions. “However, it’s difficult to estimate the exact maximum capacity of the expanded canal, because it will depend on the vessel size, type, draft and transit restrictions.
“Nevertheless, we expect to be able to handle between 35 and 38 vessels per day including the existing and expanded locks.”
In addition, there are ongoing draft restrictions in place at the new locks.
The maximum allowable draft for vessels transiting the Neopanamax locks currently stands at 13.41 meters (44 feet) — compared with the design draft of up to 50 feet at the new locks.
The canal celebrated 102 years of operations Monday, one day after transiting the 100th vessel — The Panama-flagged containership, the Hanjin Xiamen — through the expanded locks. The ship passed through the canal Sunday morning en route to New York, the ACP said.