In the News from Panama

Panama Canal Expansion Aiding Global Environment

The year-old expansion of the Panama is having far-reaching impacts on the global economy and trade. And it’s also impacting the environment.

Shipping companies have been able to lower their total carbon emissions by 17 million metric tons in the last year, thanks to the shortcut offered by the expansion, according to a Panama Canal Authority official. The Authority had forecast a potential savings of 9.6 million metric tons, but the performance has exceeded initial expectations, said Alexis Rodriguez, the environmental protection specialist for the Authority.

The expanded canal has helped companies in Asia deliver goods to the U.S. East Coast and helped redraw commodity trade routes, Rodriguez told a reporter for Bloomberg. At the same time, liquefied natural gas and oil are shipping from the U.S. to Asia at record levels, while iron ore, coal and grains are flowing to Asia from Brazil, Colombia and Argentina, Bloomberg reports.

The Canal expansion paved the way for bigger, more efficient ships, which have dramatically cut thousands of miles off the journeys for shipping companies, Rodriguez said. Panama has also supported tougher environmental rules for shipping, including limits on sulfur emissions, he said.

“If we don’t take measures to cut pollution then we will all suffer in our pockets,” Rodriguez told Bloomberg in an interview in London, where he was attending a conference focused on improving the environmental performance of shippers.

The Canal Authority expects shippers to save about 320 million tons of CO2 in the first decade of the expanded Canal’s operation, which is double the initial predictions, Rodriguez said.

Earlier this month, the Canal Authority announced the expanded Canal has “exceeded expectations,” in terms of total traffic.