In the News from Panama

Panama Canal Reports Record Traffic

In a sign of the resiliency of the Panama economy, the Panama Canal reported record tonnage in its 2021 fiscal year, despite the much-reported issues with the global supply chain.

The Canal finished the fiscal year, which closed Sept. 30, with a record annual tonnage of 516.7 million Panama Canal tons (PC/UMS), which was 10% higher than the tonnage reported in 2019, the previous record. While container traffic grew, the surge was led by liquified natural gas (LNG), “liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), vehicle carriers and dry bulk carriers drove overall growth.

LNG tonnage grew by 31% from 2020, led by increased traffic from the U.S. and record winter temperatures in Asia, the Canal Authority reported.

“LNG is not only growing the fastest, but it has had its best year in terms of tonnage through the Canal,” said Ilya Espino de Marotta, Deputy Administrator of the Panama Canal.

But the growth in tonnage has extra meaning in the context of the COVID pandemic, officials acknowledged. The ability to grow traffic, despite backups in the U.S, ports, and a myriad of economic issues around the globe is testimony to the essential nature of the Canal’s role, in good times or bad.

“This year’s figures across segments demonstrate the Canal can adapt and meet fluctuating market needs,” Espino de Marotta said.

Vehicle carriers also contributed to the growth, as well as demand for consumer goods around the world. While the numbers were impressive, traffic is expected to increase next year, when cruise ships return to more normal schedules.  

South Korea was the fourth top user of the Canal in the fiscal year, preceded by the United States, China, and Japan, with Chile coming in fifth, the Canal Authority said. In total, the Canal recorded a total of 13,342 transits in 2021, led by an increase in the giant Neopanamax transits through the Canal expanded portion.