The Panama Canal Authority says vessel transits are
rebounding as global trade picks up after the Covid-19 pandemic.
Container ships have led the recovery while liquefied
natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas are among the fastest growing segments
for the waterway, said Ilya Espino de Marotta, its deputy administrator, in an
interview at the canal locks.
The canal expects to see around 13,000 ship transits this
fiscal year, compared to 12,245 last year. Shippers taking goods between the
U.S. east coast and Asia remain the canal’s top customers, she said.
The canal has received fewer cancellations this year than in
2020 and vehicle carriers are slowly returning, said Espino de Marotta, an
engineer who led the canal’s $5.25 billion expansion project which opened in
Cruise ships, which were among the worst hit segment, are
beginning to reserve slots at the canal later this year, with more cruise
liners planning returns in 2022.
The canal expects to receive 429 million tons of cargo and
collect $3.3 billion in revenue for fiscal year 2021, which ends on September
30. That compares to 475 million tons and $3.4 billion in 2020.
The canal authority monitored the container ship that got
stuck in the Suez canal this year and disrupted global shipping, but the two
waterways have important differences, Espino de Marotta said.
In Panama, ship captains cede control of their vessels to
canal authority pilots who are more familiar with the route. The Panama canal
is also shorter than Suez and doesn’t frequently experience big wind storms,