Panama Canal Transits, Tonnage Drop in Third Quarter

Panama Canal Transits, Tonnage Drop in Third Quarter

Vessel traffic and total tonnage declined at the Panama Canal during the quarter ending June 30, the Panama Canal Authority said Tuesday in a rare report of slowdown in the maritime industry's year of recovery.

The metrics are based on operations from April through June 2010, the third quarter of the canal authority’s 2010 fiscal year, and are compared with third quarter of fiscal year 2009.

Total canal transits slightly declined 2.8 percent, to 3,476 transits, from the same quarter last year. Transits of supers — larger ships that require greater time and navigation skills to transit the Canal — decreased 3.1 percent to 1,758 transits from 1,815.

However, the authority is reporting growth in some segments.

In certain key canal segments, general cargo and vehicle carrier transits increased, while transits of dry bulk, containers, refrigerated cargo (reefers), tankers and passenger vessels decreased.

Canal Waters Time, the average time it takes a vessel to transit the Canal (including waiting time for passage) for booked transits decreased.

Overall CWT increased 5.8 percent to 21.12 hours from 19.96 hours. CWT for booked vessels, those ships holding reservations, experienced a decline in time to 13.10 hours from 14.53 hours, or a 9.9 percent reduction.

“In Q3 of 2010, we saw minor fluctuations in overall transits and tonnage when compared to Q3 of 2009, an indicator that we are experiencing some signs of stability,” said Manuel Benítez, the canal authority executive vice president of operations. “We also saw growth in a few key segments, namely general cargo and vehicle carriers.

“We expect to see these same trends into the last quarter of this fiscal year and will continue to monitor global markets and their impact on the waterway,” Benitez said.

Panama Canal/Universal Measurement System (PC/UMS) tonnage dropped by 3.5 percent to 71.08 million PC/UMS tons from 73.68 million PC/UMS tons.

The official accident rate increased to 2.59 accidents per 1,000 transits from 1.96. An official accident is one in which a formal investigation is requested and conducted.

Utilization of the booking system for the Canal decreased 18.8 percent, to 43.21 percent utilization from 53.19 percent.

--Contact Peter T. Leach at
pleach@joc.com.