The Panama Canal closed its fiscal year 2020 with an annual tonnage transit of 475.1 million tons from the Panama Canal (PC / UMS), a 4% drop compared to forecasts, mainly due to the impact of COVID-19 on world trade.
The canal authority closed its fiscal year with 13,369 transits, 2% less than initially projected.
The drop in activity reflects an expected 5% contraction in world trade volumes in 2020 due to the pandemic, with an expected drop of 8% in the United States, the main customer of the interoceanic passage.
“The fiscal period that lasted from October 1, 2019 to September 30, 2020, painted two different pictures for the Panama Canal, with a first semester that exceeded expectations, followed by another in which a pandemic began to disrupt lives and economies around the world ”. said the Panama Canal authority.
As revealed, the height of the pandemic’s impact on the waterway occurred between May and July, as transits decreased by 20%, mainly due to reductions in passenger ships, vehicles, and LNG tankers.
Transit and cargo movement, however, normalized in August and September.
Container ships remained the leading segment in the Panama Canal, registering 166.3 million tons of PC / UMS or 35% of the canal’s tonnage for fiscal year 20, followed by:
Bulk carriers: 80.9 million tons
Oil / chemical tankers: 69.2 million tons
LNG: 46.4 million tons
LPG: 44.6 million tons
“Although the results of the waterway are similar to those achieved in fiscal year 2020, representing an increase of only 1% in total PC / UMS tonnes, expectations for fiscal year 20 were more optimistic as the performance of the waterway in the first half of the year was above projections, “said the canal authority noted.
In March 2020, the impact of the pandemic began to take effect, impacting the passenger segment, which, due to the health measures implemented that ended the cruise season early, closed 10% less than expected.
Vehicle carriers and LNG saw PC / UMS tonnage around 21% and 15% below projections, respectively.
The negative impacts in these segments were partially offset by the strong performance of the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and bulk segments, which registered a tonnage of PC / UMS 27% and 21% higher than projected.
To keep the canal open during the pandemic, the water authority implemented stricter health and safety measures, including telecommuting for non-essential employees.
“The priority of the canal was to ensure the well-being of the nearly 10,000 men and women who make up our team and reaffirmed their commitment by adapting to the changes imposed by this pandemic to guarantee the continuous operation of the waterway,” said Ricaurte Vásquez Morales, Panama. The administrator of the Panamá Canal.
The Panama Canal Authority has decided to extend its temporary relief measures until December 31, 2020, offering more support for the recovery of the industry.
The measures include the suspension of advance payments of transit reservation fees and other changes to the inland waterway reservation system.