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Panama Canal transit falls modestly in spite of global crisis

Thursday, April 16th 2009 - 04:18 UTC
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Transits of the Panama Canal slipped 1.4% in the Canal’s second fiscal quarter, according to the Panama Canal Authority (PCA). A total of 3,914 ships passed through the Canal from January through March.

But tonnage fell further as fewer large ships came through. Transits of supers declined 2.9% – to 1,815 transits from 1,869. Overall tonnage dropped 3.3% to 75.7 million tons from 78.4 million tons a year earlier.

General cargo, dry bulk and tanker transits increased, while refrigerated (reefers), container, vehicle carrier and passenger transits decreased.

The average time it takes a vessel to transit the Canal decreased 27.9% to 26.22 hours from 36.39 hours. Canal Waters Time for booked vessels decreased 19.5% to 15.83 hours from 19.66 hours. As space freed up, use of the booking system decreased 15.6% to 79.56% utilization from 94.31%.

The official accident rate declined 32.4% to 1.02 accidents per 1,000 transits from 1.51 per 1,000 transits.

“Our results for this quarter paint a favourable picture of how the Canal continues to weather the global economic crisis. Q2 numbers remained steady and we do not expect to see major fluctuations,” said Manuel Benítez, PCA executive vice president of operations.

In February, the PCA began forecasting a 5% drop in cargo tonnage going through the waterway in 2008-2009. PCA said that cargo transiting the canal will show a decrease close to 19.9 million tons, leaving a total of 294.1 million.

The canal closed the 2008 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, with a total of 14,702 crossings, or 12.9% less than the previous year.

But toll revenues in 2008 totalled 1.32 billion US dollars, an increase of 11.3% over the previous year.

Since the United States transferred the canal to Panama on December 31, 1999, up to the fiscal year 2008, the PCA has collected some 10.8 billion USD, and has passed on to the Panamanian government 3.27 billion USD.

Categories: Economy, Latin America.

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