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Friday, August 22 2014 @ 07:48 AM EDT

Operation of the Panama Canal

The Panama Canal is a topic of news and discussion almost daily in Panama. Right now the biggest news is the expansion of the Panama Canal and the construction of a third set of locks, but while the construction is going on the Panama Canal will continue to operate as normal. More than 30 ships pass through the canal every day and last year the Panama Canal Administration (ACP) generated more than $800 million dollars in profits for the general treasury of the Republic of Panama. In this section of the Panama-Guide.com web site you will find those articles related to the daily operation of the canal, basically anything that's about the canal but not about the expansion project. If you require additional information about this or any other category of information regarding the Republic of Panama please take advantage of our powerful in-house search engine. And if you still can't find what you're looking for we even take requests! Welcome aboard, and please remember to tell your friends about Panama-Guide.com, the #1 English Language Website about the Republic of Panama. Salud.
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National Assembly Approved 2015 Panama Canal Budget

Canal Daily OperationOn Wednesday the National Assembly approved the Panama Canal Authority's $2.4 billion 2015 budget in the third and final debate. (more)

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Panama Canal: 14 Years Under Panamanian Administration

Canal Daily OperationOn the countdown to its centennial in 2014, the Panama Canal celebrates 14 years under Panamanian administration, characterized by its enhanced service to world maritime trade.

“The Panama Canal has strengthened its role in international trade, while contributing to the country’s development,” said Panama Canal Administrator Jorge L. Quijano.

The Panamanian management model has enabled the efficient and safe operation of the Canal, allowing it to offer a world-class service.

Cutting-Edge Infrastructure: Under Panamanian administration, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has improved its service to world maritime trade through the permanent maintenance and modernization of its infrastructure. Approximately, US$2 billion have been invested since 2000.

During fiscal year (FY) 2014 (October 1, 2013 to September 30, 2014), the ACP will invest approximately US$238 million in maintenance of structures and equipment to continue providing an efficient service to the international maritime community. The main areas of maintenance include, among others, the navigation channel through dredging operations; the control of erosion and landslides; floating equipment such as tugboat, dredges, cranes and launches; the locks and their components; and the dams, landfills, power plants, buildings and facilities.

Panama Canal Expansion: In 2007, the Panama Canal Expansion Program began as a result of a widespread approval by Panamanians in a national referendum. The Expansion Program will create a new lane of traffic along the Canal by building a new set of locks which will allow the transit of bigger ships with more capacity. This is the greatest modernization project of the waterway since it was opened in 1914.

To date, the Expansion Program is 70.7% complete with several components completed such as the dredging of the Atlantic and Pacific entrances, while the construction of the new locks is 64% complete. During the past six years, the Expansion Program has generated 31,000 direct jobs.

Centennial Countdown: The Panama Canal will celebrate its centennial on August 15, 2014.

As part of the centennial countdown, the Panama Canal Authority began on August 15, 2013 a calendar of activities to celebrate the milestones that led to its opening, such as the first lockage and the 100 years of dredging Culebra Cut, which removed the last barrier during its construction.

During the upcoming months, the Panama Canal will commemorate other important historical milestones linked to the waterway’s operation and its importance to world maritime trade, while highlighting the aspects that have made the Panama Canal an international symbol. (Dredging Today)

Editor's Comment: All of those people (mostly Zonians) who were fearful that the Panamanians would not be able to property manage and run the Panama Canal have been proven wrong. The Amazing expansion of the Panamanian economy can be tied directly to the return of the canal to Panamanian hands. This economic expansion has directly and indirectly benefited each and every Panamanian citizen in too many ways to either list or identify. Depending upon which data you choose to accept (IMF, World Bank, or CIA) Panama now has a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) per capita of about $16,000 - making Panamanians the "second most rich" citizens in all of Latin America. Only Chile has a higher GDP (PPP) per capita. I predicted this rise would continue years ago, and I also predicted that it's simply a matter of time before Panama passes Chile and Panamanians become the "richest" citizens (comparatively speaking) in all of Latin America. And most of this wealth can be traced - either directly or indirectly - to the return of the Panama Canal to the control of the Panamanian people. One more gift the United States has bestowed upon Panama...

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Panama Canal Registers Record Grain Cargo Transits

Canal Daily OperationThe Panama Canal is experiencing a strong grain shipping season with dry bulkers registering record grain cargoes during the first two months of the current fiscal year.

Based on the analysis by the Panama Canal’s Marketing Division, in October, a total of 5.2 million long tons of grains were transported through the waterway, the highest level recorded since October 2011. In November, tonnage is likely to reach close to the record cargo tonnage of 6.3 million long tons of November 2011. Transits of Panamax-sized dry bulkers, with beams between 100-106 feet, have increased 22% given the surging grain trade.

“It is expected that grain cargo movements will continue firm until the grain harvest begins in the Southern Hemisphere and additional grain supplies enter to compete in the market,” said Panama Canal Administrator Jorge L. Quijano.

This year, grain production in the United States has benefited from high yields, after experiencing a severe drought in the summer of 2013. According to the United States Department of Agriculture latest World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates Report (WASDE), corn production is expected to be record at 371.5 million metric tons for the marketing year 2013/14 that began in September. This is equivalent to an increase of 30% compared with 320.1 million metric tons in 2012/2013. Soybean production is expected at 88.7 million metric tons, a 7% increase over the previous year, and soybean exports are estimated at 39.5 million metric tons, an increase of 10%.

Prices for major grains have declined in response to good production numbers and expectations that less corn will be required in the United States for ethanol production, which has contributed to increased grain demand from Asian buyers.

The surge in grain cargo flows through the Panama Canal has been particularly strong for shipments from the US Gulf to China,” explained Maria Eugenia Sánchez, Senior Trade Specialist for the Panama Canal Dry Bulk Market Segment.

Corn, soybeans, sorghum, and wheat destined to China shared 81% of total grain tonnage through the waterway, up from 71% a year ago. (pancanal.com)

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Suez crisis could divert traffic to Panama route

Canal Daily OperationBy Franklin Castrellón - A failed attempt to blow up a container ship in the Suez Canal on August 31, allegedly by activists of the Muslim Brotherhood, has raised fears among maritime industry users of that route, and has opened the possibility that some companies will prefer to use other alternatives, including the Panama Canal.

The attack occurred when activists hidden in bushland on the banks of the Sinai Peninsula, armed with bazookas, fired two shots at the Cosco Asia, of Panamanian flag, with a capacity of 10,062 containers, while in transit, reported the BBC. The ship was not damaged or its crew injured.

After a brief interruption, Suez traffic returned to normal on September 1, when it had scheduled 51 transits.

Egyptian General Command Authorities announced that they had taken extreme security measures on the Canal route, as well as on its approaches and inlets. Although not directly linked to that act, the Egyptian government announced it had arrested a militant terrorist at Sinai. According to the AP, this individual is suspected of involvement in an ambush in which 25 off duty policemen were killed.

The Suez Canal, like that of Panama, is a key artery of world trade. “The role of the Suez Canal in an increasingly globalized economy is huge,” said John Higginbotham, an analyst of the Journal of Commerce, following the incident.

“About 17,000 ships transited the canal in 2012, and its annual tonnage, especially of large container ships has doubled in the past twelve years despite the great recession,” he added. Its revenues total about $5,000 million annually.

A blockade of Suez would be traumatic, the JOC analyst said. Its greatest effect would be to disrupt trade in goods and energy products (oil and gas) between Western Europe and the Persian Gulf states, South Asia and the industrial superpowers of East Asia. It would also do significant harm to US trade with the European Union and Asia.

The alternatives, in a Suez shutdown, would the long journey around the Cape of Good Hope, the Russian Northern route, the Trans-Siberian system, new pipelines and the Panama Canal.

The Suez Canal and the intermodal system in the United States are the main competitors of the Panama Canal for world trade. The advantage of Suez and the intermodal system on the Panama Canal is that both allow the transit of huge post-Panamax ships, which today can not use the Panama route.

Both canals have captive routes. In the case of Suez are the trade of Persian Gulf oil and containerized cargo between Southeast Asia and Europe. In the case of Panama, it serves the grain trade between New Orleans and Asia, as well as serving transport between the West Coast of South America and the East Coast of the United States.

But there is a huge trade between North East Asia (China) and the East Coast of the United States that has the option of choosing between Suez, the intermodal system and the Panama Canal. In this trade, the Panama route offers less time and cost than that of Suez, but today it is limited by the size of the existing locks. This limitation will be resolved when the expanded Canal begins operation in mid- 2015. (thebulletinpanama.com)

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The Panama Canal Is Preparing To Celebrate Its 100 Years

Canal Daily OperationThe Panama Canal Authority published the logo they will use to identify the different celebrations organized for the Centennial of the Panama Canal. They also detailed the main activities they will develop in August 2014 when the Canal turns 100 years old.

During the speech, the administrator of the ACP, Jorge Luis Quijano, said they will highlight the qualities that make the Canal an international symbol.

“We celebrate the Canal’s centennial with our mind set in the future, for the first time in its history we Panamanians are responsible for deciding upon the future of the Canal, with full sovereignty of this waterway.”

He says this future is marked by the Canal expansion. While the logo was revealed, the loud sounds made by the ships that were going through the Canal at the moment served as the perfect background.

99 YEARS

Despite the competition that may arise after the construction of other Canals, the Panama Canal represents more than a simple waterway letting ships pass through. This was stated by the Ministry of Canal Affairs, Roberto Roy, today, Thursday August 15 of 2013, on the 99th anniversary of the official inauguration of traffic through the Canal.

“Panama is much more than a Canal; it is a whole logistics system that has been working for a really long time,” he said.

In this sense, the official said they are working on creating new ports, which will definitely increase the amount of infrastructures in the country. He also said they have not finished the expansion of the Canal, which will be finished by April 2015. This project is valued in $5.2 billion dollars.

“Panama is a country in development… It did not only receive the canal with no debt whatsoever, but also 100% of its income goes to the Panamanian State, which has contributed in the development of the country,” he said. Approximately 14 thousand ships and 5% of the world trade goes through the Canal.

Meanwhile, the administrator of the ACP said the expansion is well under way. Quijano said he is fighting for the cost of the project not to go up.

However, he said this is impossible because the cost of fuel always goes up as well as the cost of materials they are using in the project, such as steel. (Prensa)

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\"Reto Canal,\" First Online Game Launched By The Panama Canal Authority

Canal Daily Operation"Reto Canal," is the first online game launched by the Panama Canal Authority (ACP), aimed to teach facts about the Canal through the social networks.

In order to play it, you must access the link reto.micanaldepanama.com or through the website of the Panama Canal in Facebook, http://facebook.com/canaldepanama.

Basically the game asks you questions about the Panama Canal, and you must answer them correctly to go through the locks.

Jorge Luis Quijano, administrator of the ACP, said the institution wants young Panamanians to understand the importance about the Canal through its history, operation, expansion, its contribution to technological development and environmental conservation. (Panama America)

My own opinion

The game first lets you choose the type of vessel you would like to use through your journey, and then they start asking you questions about the Canal to test your knowledge and you get three tries before you lose the game. You will start going through the locks once you get the questions right. It's not much like a "game," but losing everytime really makes you want to play again. I think I've just learned a thing or to myself by playing this. The downside of this game is they only have a Spanish version, I hope they eventually give the option to play it in English.

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Bill Gates Was Fascinated By The Panama Canal

Canal Daily OperationBill Gates visited Panama and said that "of all the interesting things in the world the Canal is one of the top 10.”

To Gates, being there and seeing the different types of ships and all the activity, is truly fascinating.

The founder of Microsoft enjoyed a vacation with his family doing a tour of the Panama Canal aboard their vessel, and enjoyed seven hours through the expansion of the Canal in the Caribbean side, the Miraflores Visitors Center, among others.

One of the most interesting things for Bill was the Windows operating systems in the computers used by the Panama Canal Authority (ACP).

Gates shared a video of this experience on his website www.thegatesnotes.com, titled "Taking the Family to the Panama Canal," where he talks about his decision of visiting this wonderful work after reading a book by the author David McCullough, which made him want to know even more about the story. (Critica)

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Nicaragua approves Panama Canal alternative

Canal Daily OperationBy Clarise Ardúz & Chris Sleight - The Nicaraguan Congress has approved a law to allow a Chinese company to construct and operate a trans-oceanic canal. The agreement could see Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co. (HKND Group) construct the US$ 40 billion canal over a ten-year period and then operate it for up to a century.

The law was passed by 61 votes to 25, with one abstention in the face of public protests. The project has not been subject to a public tender and has been criticised as a loss of Nicaraguan sovereignty. Its signing followed a July 2012 ruling by Congress to create the legal regime and government entity to develop the canal. It was followed in September by a Memorandum of understanding with HKND Group, followed in October with a Deed of Cooperation with the company.

The route of the canal has not been finalised, but it would be likely to make use of Lake Nicaragua in the west of the country near the Pacific coast. However, in order to reach this from the Atlantic side, at least a 100 km route would have to be excavated.

Speaking at the signing of the new law, Wang Jing, chairman of privately-held HKND Group said, “The one hundred year old dream of the Nicaraguan people for a Nicaragua grand canal emerges in response to this demand. With the full support from the Government of Nicaragua and the great assistance from friends from all industries and all regions, we are committed to ensure the proper design, construction and operation of the Nicaragua Canal.”

The company said that by 2030, the value of goods being transported through the Nicaraguan and Panama canals could be US$ 1.4 trillion per year.

Alternative schemes

In other news, the Honduran government has signed a memorandum of understanding with China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) to build Pacific and Atlantic ports, linked by railway lines as a further inter-oceanic trade link. Sites at Amapala on the Pacific side and Castilla on the Atlantic have been identified, and they would be linked by up to 10 rail lines and an oil pipeline. The cost of the scheme is put at US$ 20 billion.

Guatemala has been looking into a similar scheme for some time, which would see two ports linked by a new 390 km high-speed rail line, with gas and oil pipelines running alongside it. (khl.com)

Editor's Comment: It doesn't cost the Nicaraguan congress anything to pass a law. However it will cost this group more than $40 billion dollars to build this new canal. I stand by my assessment that this proposal will probably never be built, simply because the math and numbers don't work very well. The demand simply isn't there. They won't have a monopoly. Remember how Maersk recently rerouted some of their traffic through the Suez canal because it was cheaper than going through the Panama Canal? Shippers don't give a rat's ass about Nicaragua's dreams, or China's desire to expand their influence. They care about the bottom line, making money, and keeping their shipping costs as low as possible. Now, if this Chinese outfit has $40 billion dollars to blow - then more power to them. But it's going to be a very, very long time before this new Nicaraguan canal - if it's ever built at all - is able to pay off the cost of construction and turn a profit. I see this as hype and boondoggle. And consider the source. Daniel Ortega. Just let that one sink in for a minute. Maybe the Chinese want a way to get their warships into the Atlantic? Strategically thinking, maybe they have decided that eventually the US and China might be at war at some point in the future? If that's the case, then they will build it, and profit motive doesn't matter.

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Nuñez Fabrega Believes The U.S. Will Not Agree With A Canal Through Nicaragua

Canal Daily OperationFernando Nuñez, foreign minister of Panama, said during an interview that he believes the United States will not agree with the construction of a canal through Nicaragua, which is going to be built by a Chinese company. He also said there could be some issues due to the constant earthquakes in Nicaragua.

"I don’t see Americans agreeing with the construction of a canal by the Chinese over there,” said Nuñez regarding the canal which will compete against the Panama Canal, opened in 1914 as a route between the Atlantic and the Pacific and managed by the United States until 1999.

Nuñez was interviewed during a meeting of the foreign ministers of Mexico, Central America, Dominican Republic and Colombia, on Thursday and Friday in the Mexican city of San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas.

"We will wait for the feasibility study. They have not contemplated some technical issues," said Nuñez. "The canal was not built through Panama because Americans like us more, but because we don’t get any earthquakes," he said, and said that if the doors do not hermetically seal after an earthquake, the canal would not work and the project would have to be started all over again.

He also said Nicaragua would need approximately 200 years to cover the investment of 44 billion dollars.

"We covered the debt of 4 billion dollars invested in the Panama Canal in four years," he said. Nuñez said it is evident that "China has a lot of money and its businessmen don’t know what to do with it."

The mega-project has polarized opinions in Nicaragua, and it was awarded to a Chinese company without a public tender in three weeks and with a capital of $64,000, according to the media in Nicaragua.

The company HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Company (HKND Group), based in Hong Kong, is chaired by Wang Ji, a Chinese investor, who is almost unknown. (Prensa)

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Nicaragua Approved The Project For The Construction Of The Canal

Canal Daily OperationThe National Assembly of Nicaragua approved on Thursday a concession for 50 years to a Chinese company based in Hong Kong to promote, design, build and manage an ambitious canal project in the Central American country, which would cost 40 billion dollars.

The project, which would compete against the Panama Canal, contemplates the construction of a canal to join the Caribbean coast with the Pacific, a deepwater port on both coasts, a rail corridor or dry canal for cargo transportation between the two coastlines, free trade zones, airports and an oil pipeline for hydrocarbons, parallel to the canal.

The concession favors HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co. Limited (HKND Group), chaired by the Chinese lawyer Wang Jing, who is also head of Xinwei Telecom Enterprise Group, company who was awarded the concession to operate cellular telecommunications.

According to the Special Law for the Development of Nicaraguan Infrastructure and Transportation relevant to the Canal, Free Trade Zones and Associated Infrastructure, the company HKND Group may concession the subprojects to other companies. The concession is renewable for another 50 years.

The law was passed with 61 votes from the deputies out of a total of 89 votes from the Assembly.

This week, the spokesman of HKND Group, who is the former official of the World Bank, Ronald McLean-Abaroa, told reporters they hired the British consultant Environmental Resources Management for the study of environmental and social impact of the project.

They have also hired the U.S. firm McLarty Associates to look for investors all over the world. (Mi Diario)

Editor's Comment: Question: Do you think this new canal in Nicaragua will ever actually be constructed? I don't. There are several problems with this proposal, most of them having to do with the math, numbers, and profitability. The Chinese might have a lot of money to spend, but that does not make them stupid. There has to be enough of a demand to require the construction of such an ambitious project, to guarantee a return on investment for any potential investors.

The Nicaragua proposal has one major stumbling block - the Panama Canal already exists, and it was recently expanded to allow for the passage of larger vessels. The managers of the Panama Canal will easily be able to compete when and if the new Nicaraguan canal ever opens, simply by dropping their tolls to the point where they will be first choice. By the time the proposed Nicaraguan canal has been build, the expansion of the Panama Canal will have already been paid for. Panama won't have a need to suck up additional revenue (like they have right now) so they will be able to reduce tolls. By comparison, the managers of the Nicaraguan canal will have a responsibility to their investors to recoup the initial $40 billion dollar investment, and to show a return or profit on that investment. That means they won't be able to drop their toll rates in order to compete with Panama. Panama can just do the math, figure out their competitive price points, and reduce the tolls to the point where they are the obvious first choice. Once all of Panama's spots are filled, then Nicaragua will be left with the dregs. And being left with the dregs is not a great position to be in, when you're fighting to recover a $40 billion dollar investment.

Another serious problem is Nicaragua's history with large earthquakes. There have been several earthquakes measuring greater than 7.0 on the Richter scale in the past 100 years, including a 7.6 in 1992, a 7.3 in 1956, and a 7.1 in 2004. Another earthquake measuring 6.2 in 1972 leveled Managua and killed more than 5,000 people. The last thing an investor wants to hear is "sorry, your $40 billion dollar investment was destroyed by an earthquake last night..." The higher levels of seismological activity in Nicaragua was the primary reason why Panama was chosen over Nicaragua in the first place, more than 100 years ago. At the very least, the greater earthquake threat will make the construction much more expensive.

Anyway, my bottom line analysis always ends up with the same conclusion. This new Nicaraguan canal will probably never be built, regardless of the efforts by the government of that country to promote the idea. Issuing a concession is one thing. Raising the $40 billion dollars to actually get it done is another. But hey, why not? At least they are generating some headlines.

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Owners Of Hangars Do Not Refuse To Leave, But They Want Compensation

Canal Daily OperationSilvio Guerra, attorney of the owners of the hangars in Diablo, said that according to Article 9 of the Torrijos-Carter Treaties these people could continue using the land where they live, subject to reasonable payment for the property.

He said there were documents consisting of lease payments and all basic services usually paid for a home.

He also said the residents do not refuse to leave the place, but they want to receive a compensation for the improvements they have made.

According to Guerra, the former Foreign Minister Jorge Ritter said a bunch of lies because these people have right over the lands and requested him to stop saying things he has no clue about and about things that are still valid.

Meanwhile, the attorney and local resident, Marcos Ostrander said the former government of the Canal Zone gave out formal licenses with documentation.

"The Canal and the ACP are untruthful because they have the documentation of the residents who have lived there for over 30 years," he stated. (Panama America)

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ACP Says Canal Through Nicaragua Must Be Analyzed To Avoid Ecological Damage

Canal Daily OperationA canal through Nicaragua is an "ambitious project", which should be analyzed carefully to prevent ecological damage, said the Deputy Administrator of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP), Manuel Benitez.

"The environmental experts recommend great caution and an environmental impact analysis to determine if it is really viable,” said Benitez in a press conference.

Currently, a legislative committee from the Nicaraguan Congress is consulting the feasibility of the construction of a deep-water canal between the Atlantic and the Pacific, proposed by the Chinese company HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co., Limited.

Benitez said the proposed canal is a competition for the Panama Canal, situation that has to be analyzed at the right moment.

However, he said they must take into account that Panama has “the experience and is a known route." (Prensa)

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Panama Canal Implements Just-in-Time Service Trial Period

Canal Daily OperationThe Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has implemented the just-in-time service (JIT) that they say will allow vessels to have a more efficient transit.

The new service will allow the vessels to arrive at the Panama Canal much closer to their scheduled transit time. This value-added service will allow vessels to have a more efficient fuel usage by having to remain at anchor for less time before actually beginning transit.

"This new service is part of our efforts to explore new options in order to better serve our customers,” Panama Canal Administrator Jorge L. Quijano said. “The Panama Canal is not only committed to maintaining a high quality service, but also improve in the necessary areas."

The participation on this trial period will focus on vessels equipped with a type A Automatic Identification System (AIS) device. In order to evaluate the operational feasibility of the service, a proof-of-concept trial was developed and is being implemented since February 2013.

For this service to be functional for both the Canal and its clients, the vessels’ arrival time (ETA) must be as accurate as possible. The vessel must be willing and able to adjust its itinerary to meet the required ETA. Furthermore, the vessels must comply with the ACP pre-inspection procedures.

To achieve an effective level of JIT service, the selected vessels will be notified approximately 96 hours prior to their scheduled transit of their required ETA and tentative transit time. The Panama Canal will then use Satellite Automatic Identification System (SAIS) technology to track the vessels within a range of 2,000 nautical miles before arrival and ensure that they can comply with the stipulated ETA.

Non-booked vessels may request to participate in the JIT service; however, participation will be confirmed after securing a booking slot for that specific transit date. If the booking slot is not obtained, the vessel will not be allowed to participate in the JIT service.

Two JIT service slots per day will be offered to regular vessels (under 27.74 meters or 91 feet in beam) without transit restrictions, with a maximum of one JIT service slot per direction. The allocation of these JIT service slots will be determined by the order the requests were received. (marinelink.com)

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The Panama Canal Authority Reiterates Its Request For Squatters in Diablo To Leave The Area

Canal Daily OperationThrough a statement the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) reminded the squatters in their property -established by the Panama Canal in the area of Diablo- that they have to leave the area.

Similarly, they said they will be removing any assets, including structures built in that area.

This is the area known as the Diablo hangars in Ancon, part of the lot No. 196273, owned by the ACP.

The company says they have not authorized any occupation or construction in this area, so the occupants are illegally established at this zone.

Around 130 constructions have been identified on the site, including residential homes, workshops, warehouses and other unauthorized structures.

Furthermore, the ACP reiterates that the sea access ramp located in the area will be open for public use. (TVN)

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Panama Canal Viewpoints Have Achieved Earnings Of $25 Million

Canal Daily OperationAppreciating the operation of the Panama Canal, the transit of vessels and even the expansion work, is also good business. Proof of this is that in the last 10 years it has raised $25.8 million in admission fees for the visitor centers.

Of this grand total, the center of Miraflores brings in the most, with a total of $23,202,373.50.

These figures are due to the increase in visits, mainly by non-residents, because this is a representative symbol of the country.

Last year, visitor centers, including the new one in the Atlantic, raised over four million dollars, thanks to the 813,000 visitors. Meanwhile, from October 2012 to April 2013 there have made over two million dollars.

Visits

In the last 10 years, about 5 million people have attended the viewpoints, drawn by one of the wonders of the world.

From last October to April, around 552,040 have attended the visitor centers of the ACP. About 474,882 people went to the visitor center in Miraflores, over 55,000 to the one in Gatun and around 22,147 to the observation center in Atlantic.

78% of the visitors that have gone to Miraflores are foreigners and 7.6% are residents. The rest are from courtesy tickets.

According to statistics from the center of Miraflores, in 2012 a higher percentage of visitors was registered during the months of January, February and December.

Sixta Diaz, manager of the Unit of Visitor Centers, said the number of people visiting the centers represent, proportionally, the increase in tourism in Panama.

She said the Observation Center of the Panama Canal Expansion was built so foreigners and locals could appreciate this engineering work of art; however, they are a bit slow when it comes to visits, as many people are unaware of the existence of this place, which was opened last August. He reported this center has a store and a cafe, and it will soon open a restaurant, which will make it easier to stay at the place, which also provides the opportunity to be in touch with nature through tours around ecological trails. "I believe tourism has increased in this center, because people who attend the place are thrilled with the panoramic," said Diaz.

She said Panamanians often complain about the lack of recreational facilities, however, "these are places to visit with your family."

The Panama Canal is an international symbol that has been visited by celebrities, athletes, politicians and even royalty.

Among the characters who have visited the Panama Canal are Hillary Clinton, Elena (Duchess of Lugo), Gilberto Santa Rosa, players from the Spanish soccer team, among others.

This engineering masterpiece has also has contributed to the professional development of many Panamanians, through professional practice, such as the work they do every day at the facilities of the Canal.

Maria Valdes is a student in the career of Cultural Historical Tourism at the University of Panama, who is doing her professional practice at the center of visitors in Miraflores. She says it has been very rewarding to be in this place, and she has learned things about the Panama Canal and is in constant contact with tourists.

Ivan Berrio is one of the specialist guides for the tour of the Miraflores Locks at the visitor center.

He said he started working in the Canal 21 years ago, during the times of the Panama Canal Commission and he has been a guide for 12 to 13 years.

He began working as a fireman, then he was a paramedic, he has also been a Human Resources instructor, a maritime traffic controller, a traffic advisor, guide, among others.

What he likes the most about his job, he said, is to see the impression visitors get when they start learning about the details, when they have visual and physical access to the facilities, museum, and they can observe the transit of the ships.

"I am struck by people who have said they are making their dream come true by getting to know the Panama Canal operations," he said.

From Monday to Thursday, around 1,000 to 1,500 people visit the center. During Friday, Saturday and Sunday about 3,000 visit the place; however, there have been extraordinary days in which they have received from 3000 to 5000 visitors a day, said Berrio.

Yenny Navarrete is a tourist from Honduras who expressed her enthusiasm in visiting the center, "this is the first time I visit this place, and I find its history to be very interesting."

Investment

The Miraflores Visitor Center has undergone major renovations to its infrastructure, with the purpose of providing a decent place for visitors to appreciate what the Panama Canal represents.

With an investment of approximately $2 million, adjustments have been made to the main entrances, mainly for people with physical disabilities, as well as a new ticket office, the installation of a new elevator and the interior design of the rooms and the terrace roof. (Panama America)

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The Panama Canal Takes Preventive Measures For Their Water Use

Canal Daily OperationIn addition to complying with the orders established by the Public Services Authority regarding energy saving measures, the Panama Canal Authority took other actions to reduce water consumption in its operations.

One of these actions is to suspend hydraulic assistance to ships during their exit through the locks. During this process they will lift the stern of the ships by injecting water into the back of the lock.

Similarly, the lockage programming will be increased to two ships simultaneously.

The ACP has notified all its customers about the extent of the dry season. He said so far there are no restrictions on the transit of ships, "either in number or in draught." (Telemetro)

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Panama Canal authority hopes to revamp toll system

Canal Daily OperationThe Panama Canal authority said Thursday it hopes to increase income by changing the way it collects tolls starting in 2015, when the newly expanded canal goes into operation.

"What we're looking for is not to simply to cover the value that the route offers right now, but instead the much greater value that a widened canal will have," said canal administrator Jorge Quijano.

The proposal, Quijano said, will most likely differentiate between vessels that continue to use the existing canal and those using the widened route.

Authorities are looking into alternatives to the current per-TEU charges (a maritime transport unit equivalent to one 20-foot container) that could attract a greater volume of cargo without necessarily raising costs for users.

During the 2011 fiscal year, 14,600 ships carrying 322 million tons of cargo passed through the canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific, generating $800 million in revenue for Panama, or about two percent of its GDP.

Last year, more than 333 million tons of cargo passed through the canal.

The widening project, slated to be completed by 2015 -- six months behind schedule -- will allow the canal to accommodate ships with a capacity of up to 12,000 containers -- larger than 5,000-container ships now able to traverse it. (AFP)

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Panama Canal is nominated to Prince of Asturias 2013 Prize

Canal Daily OperationThe Ambassador of Spain, Jesus Silva, announced that Panama is nominated for the 2013 Prince of Asturias Award in the category of international cooperation, for the services provided by the Panama Canal and its contribution in the international economic and social development.

This award started in 1981 and is globally the second largest after the Nobel Prize. It is issued to those who excel in their scientific, technical, cultural, social and human work, and delivered by His Royal Highness the Prince of Asturias, Felipe de Borbón.

Jorge Luis Quijano, administrator of the Panama Canal Authority, was pleased with this nomination, but said that so far it is unknown who are the other companies or countries competing for this prize as well.

He said they will enable in the webpage of the PCA (Panama Canal Authority) the corresponding links during the next days; this way, Panamanians and customers can know more about this award and support Panama’s nomination.

The awards will be held in Oviedo, Spain, on Friday, October 25, and the winner will receive a sculpture representing the award, a diploma, a badge and 50,000 Euros.(Telemetro)

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Percentage Drop in Cargo Going Through The Panama Canal

Canal Daily OperationThe bad economy in: Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela, have affected the amount of cargo ships that go through the Panama Canal from these countries.

In January and February of this year, the country's five terminals reported the movement of 1,028,000 TEU (Twenty Foot Equivalent Unit). This is 190,000 TEU or 15% less than the amount moved in the period of 2012.

Port operators claim the European crisis slows down exportation. In addition, there has been decreased shipping services and partnerships to use fewer boats and optimize the use of space on ships. (Prensa)

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Maersk Line to Dump Panama Canal for Suez as Ships Get Bigger

Canal Daily OperationMaersk Line, the world’s biggest container shipping company, will stop plying through the Panama Canal to move goods from Asia to the U.S. east coast as bigger ships help the company move it profitably through Suez Canal.

Maersk Line will send vessels through Suez Canal that can carry as many as 9,000 20-foot boxes at a time, instead of using two 4,500-box-vessels through Panama Canal, Soeren Skou, chief executive officer of Maersk Line, said in Singapore today. The last sailing through Panama will be on April 7 and the first service through Suez will be a week later, the company said in an e-mail statement.

“The economics are much, much better via the Suez Canal simply because you have half the number of ships,” Skou said. “One of the reasons for why this is happening now is that the cost for passing through the Panama Canal has gone up. At the end of the day, it comes down to cost.”

Shipping lines, including Maersk Line and Neptune Orient Lines Ltd., have cut costs, reduced speed of their fleet and sold some vessels to contend with freight rates that are below break-even levels. Maersk Line, based in Copenhagen, has said pressure on charges will remain this year.

Fees for ships to go through the Panama Canal have tripled in the past five years to $450,000 per passage for a vessel carrying 4,500 containers, Skou said. The distance from China to the U.S. east coast via the Suez Canal is about 4 percent to 5 percent more, he said.

A $5.25 billion expansion of Panama Canal, the waterway handling 5 percent of global trade, will open by June 2015, six months later than originally planned. The canal connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and is used by as many as 14,000 vessels a year.

Whether Maersk will use the Panama Canal after the expansion will depend on the economics, Skou said. (maritime-executive.com)

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National Assembly Ratified Three Appointments To The Panama Canal Board of Directors

Canal Daily OperationIn just ten minutes and without setbacks, the National Assembly ratified the appointments of Alberto Vallarino, Henri Mizrachi and Lourdes Castillo as the new members of the Board of Directors of the Panama Canal Authority. The appointment of Lourdes Castillo received harsh criticism. (Prensa)
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Lourdes Castillo Says There Is No Conflict of Interest In Her Appointment

Canal Daily OperationLourdes Castillo, who was recently appointed by president Ricardo Martinelli to the Board of Directors of the Panama Canal Authority, responded today to the criticisms that have been made after the announcement.

Castillo said there is no conflict of interest in her appointment, because of the nature of the business activities of the company she runs in the waters of the Panama Canal.

She is the manager Naves Supply, a company collects garbage and sewage from ships that arrive at the port of Balboa, and those transiting the waterway.

She said according to law, in order for there to be a conflict of interest, her company would have to have business contracts directly with the Panama Canal Authority itself.

However, the entrepreneur said she does not have any such contracts, nor is she a subcontractor for the Panama Canal Authority.

"My clients are the owners of the ships. I do not receive a penny from the ACP," she said during an interview on the Telemetro morning news broadcast.

Career - Castillo said she was not born in a "cradle of gold".

She said she has succeeded with her "own work and effort," in a maritime business full of men.

In that sense, she said the Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli chose for due to her career and experience in the maritime sector.

Given the criticisms that have been made, Castillo said: "I feel like any person would feel who is trying to stay afloat, and is pushed."

She Will Not Give Up Her Aspirations - Castillo said, if she is ratified for the post, she will not be drinking tea nor champagne in the Board of Directors or the ACP. "I'm going to be looking out for the interests of the Panamanians," she said.

She said the position on the Board of Directors of the ACP does not represent money, but rather it brings pride to her family.

With that, she said she would not give up her desire to occupy the position to which she has been assigned.

But she also said "if the President decides not to give me the position then that is his decision and I respect it."

"I'll wait to see what will happen," said the businesswoman, about the procedure that must pass in the National Assembly.

Ministers Defend Designations - The Presidency Minister, Roberto Henriquez, defended the recent appointments to the board of the ACP. In fact, Henriquez said there was no need for a big debate in the Cabinet, because they already knew these people.

He described Henri Mizrachi as a young entrepreneur. Meanwhile, Castillo is an entrepreneur through and through, he said. I consider them worthy, stated the head of the Presidency.

For his part, the Minister of Economy and Finance, Frank De Lima, said experience has shown that in this country, they are always looking for the "fifth leg of the cat."

However, he stressed the fact that none of the three people who were appointed to the Board of Directors of the ACP were members of the ruling Democratic Change political party. (Prensa)

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Martinelli's Three New Appointees To The Board of Directors of the Panama Canal Authority Criticized

Canal Daily OperationThe appointment of three new members to the Board of Directors of the Panama Canal Authority once again puts under the magnifying glass these types of executive appointments made "in the shadow of power" of people who are close to the highest levels of government, who have been anointed to hold certain positions, regardless of whether or not they have the required professional experience.

In this lawyers, associations, and members of the civil society are in agreement, who expressed concern yesterday after the Cabinet appointed Henri Mizrachi, Alberto Vallarino, and Lourdes Castillo to the Board of Directors of the Panama Canal Authority.

Henri Mizrachi is the Director of the EPASA Editorial Group. This is the company which publishes the pro-government Panama America newspaper, as well as the La Critica and Dia a Dia tabloids.

Alberto Vallarino is the former Minister of Economy and Finance and member of the Panameñista political party, whose name at one time was being floated as a potential presidential candidate for the Cambio Democratico party in the 2014 elections.

Lourdes Castillo is the manager of the company Naves Supply, which has been granted government contracts to dispose of medical waste in Panama.

One of the first groups that expressed concern was the Chamber of Commerce over the little information that is known about the trajectory of the new directors of the ACP.

In a statement, Irvin A. Halman, President of the Chamber of Commerce, said that the Board of the ACP is the highest level of governance of this important company, locally and internationally, so (the government ) should have taken the opportunity to "make appointments to integrate people with prestige, experience and a proven track record."

The primary point of disagreement with the decision made by the Cabinet is precisely that - the experience of those who have been designated.

Roberto Troncoso, president of the Panamanian Association of Business Executives, believes that the Directors of the ACP should bring with them a certain profile: they should be people who are qualified because - he said - they will not be leading just any entity, but rather one of the institution that provides one of the highest amounts of revenue to the state.

But Mariano Mena, of the Front for the Defense of Democracy, strips the appointments in a more radical perspective, saying "the three new directors belong to the inner circle of President Ricardo Martinelli."

The activists explains "Alberto Vallarino was named because he is from the inner circle of the former president Mireya Moscoso, and in that way he (Martinelli) intends to start some sort of rapprochement with the anti-Varela faction (of the Panameñista political party)."

In the case if Henri Mirzachi, reasons for his designation abound, says Mena, "he is the one behind the government newspaper owned by the president."

Following on with Lourdes Castillo, Mena asks "Who is she? What are her merits? What is her background?"

The opposition leader said that once again the Government is sending a bad message to people, because it seems that the government cannot see beyond, to appoint citizens who are capable of bringing the future of the Panama Canal to a good port.

With these appointments, says the businessman Roberto Eisenmann, "the autonomy of the Panama Canal is compromised," because President Martinelli now has appointed the majority of the members of the Board of Directors of the Panama Canal Authority, an entity that historically has stood for independence from the Organs of State.

In fact, Eisenmann is not mistaken. Of the eleven directors, six have been appointed during the present Government: José Sosa, Marco Ameglio, Nicolás Corcione, and the three most recent appointments.

To this list is added Roberto Roy, who was appointed as Minister of Canal Affairs, and in that role he also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the ACP.

To this total add Rafael Barcenas, who was appointed by the National Assembly but with the backing of the ruling Cambio Democratico party.

Another person who was consulted on this issue was the former president Mireya Moscoso, who only referred to the appointment of Vallarino, saying "it's a good appointment. He has the experience and he will bring a lot to the Canal," but she declined to make a comment on the appointments of Mizrachi and Castillo. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: Lourdes Castillo filed a complaint for slander and defamation against the La Estrella newspaper in May 2011 over an article they published about her company. In fact Alberto Vallarino did a great job as the Minister of Economy and Finance, and he "almost" decided to stay with the government of Ricardo Martinelli after the breakup of the alliance between the Panameñistas and the CD in August 2011. So yeah, there's no doubt that Martinelli is trying to create a wedge between Juan Carlos Varela and the rest of the members of the Panameñista party. He might not get all of them, but he will get some of them. He only needs enough of the CD party faithful, most of the Molirena, and a smattering of Panameñista party defectors to beat the PRD in 2014. The appointment of Mizrachi is clearly payback for allowing the Panama America newspaper to become the official voice of the government, as a counter balance to the La Prensa and La Estrella. Anyway, Martinelli now has complete control over the Board of Directors of the ACP with eight out of eleven seats.

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Expanded Panama Canal may change tolls to lift energy shipments

Canal Daily OperationBy The Nation -The Panama Canal, handling 5 percent of world trade, may change how it calculates tolls for ships carrying energy cargoes to boost traffic once a $5.25 billion expansion is complete in 2015.

The canal is investigating charging fees based on the cargo capacity of commodity carriers and tankers hauling fuels including liquid gases,

Panama Canal Authority Administrator Jorge Luis Quijano said in a telephone interview Jan. 17. The proposed system would replace an existing toll-setting mechanism that doesn’t always reflect cargo capacity, he said.

Expanding the 99-year-old, 80-kilometer (50 miles) waterway to accommodate bigger ships will cut freight costs for energy- fuel cargoes and open new trade routes if the fees are set correctly, he said. The canal is used by 14,000 vessels a year, carrying 5 percent of world trade, according to its website.

“We have taken our lenses off and put on some new lenses and are trying to look at our business in a different way,” Quijano said. “The economies of scale that the big ships bring in is a benefit to the shipping line and is a benefit we want to share in. It’s not that we want to eat it all, we want to take a piece of that.”

The authority is consulting canal users about the proposed changes, including meetings with associations representing owners of tankers and dry-cargo vessels in London next month, he said. The new fee structure will be announced by February 2014, for implementation by 2015, he said.

The Panama Canal Universal Measurement System, the existing method, uses a formula that doesn’t always take into account how much cargo ships can hold, according to Quijano. The canal changed its price structure in 2005 for container ships, with fees now based on how many 20-foot steel boxes the vessels can carry, according to the authority’s website.

The expansion will deepen and widen the canal, adding a third set of locks, and open for commercial transits by June 2015, six months later than first intended, Quijano said. Loans taken out to pay for the expansion need to be paid off by 2028, he said. (Bloomberg)

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Antwerp Port Authority, Panama Canal Authority Extend Collaboration

Canal Daily OperationAntwerp Port Authority and Panama Canal Authority (ACP) have reconfirmed their collaboration agreement.

The purpose of the agreement is to promote trade between the port of Antwerp and the West Coast of South America via the Panama Canal. In view of the positive evaluation of the first agreement, made in 2010, the new agreement will run for a period of five years, after which it can be further renewed.

The first collaboration agreement, signed two years ago, was the first of its kind to be signed by the Panama Canal Authority with a European port. It covered among other things joint marketing initiatives, the exchange of market studies and the setting up of training programmes. Further, information was exchanged on the handling of very large vessels: a unique feature of both the port of Antwerp and the Panama Canal.

The collaboration between the two authorities has been evaluated as positive. For example, the new locks on the Panama Canal are based on the Berendrecht lock in Antwerp, the largest in the world. Also, the Panama Canal will use tugs for steering ships across the new lane that is currently being built. For this purpose the Panama Canal pilots followed training courses in Antwerp.

Trade with South America via the Panama Canal is very important for the port of Antwerp, amounting to some 4.7 million tonnes annually. Every week there are seven liner services passing through the Canal on their way to or from Antwerp. Furthermore the volume of trade between South America and Europe is expected to grow in the future, as the Canal is being deepened and widened to handle larger vessels.

The renewed collaboration agreement was signed by Administrator Jorge L. Quijano for the Panama Canal Authority and by CEO Eddy Bruyninckx and chairman Marc Van Peel for Antwerp Port Authority. (Dredging Today)

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Panama Canal Administration Spends $200 Million Annually on Maintenance

Canal Daily OperationTwo hundred million dollars is the investment made by the Panama Canal Authority (ACP), in maintenance annually, which represents 23% of its spending.

This was announced by Jorge Quijano, ACP Administrator, during the speech that started the First International Congress of Maintenance, which will be based on a culture of performance, maintenance and sustainability of enterprises, and develop three themes: reliability and maintenance, maintenance management, and maintenance technology.

The exhibitors from the United States, Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil and Uruguay, emphasize practical experiences and modern approaches to maintenance management in Panama and elsewhere.

Quijano hoped with the conference they will receive "a new culture of maintenance in Panama and the world." (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: It's important to note that all $200 million spent by the Panama Canal Authority to maintain the Panama Canal every year stays right here in Panama. The money comes into the ACP from the tolls paid by ships to pass through the canal, and this part of that money gets inserted in an indirect manner into the broader Panamanian economy. When the Panama Canal expansion project is complete, then this number will probably about double every year. No matter, because it's just more money to flow through the Panamanian economy.

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Disaster Averted - Panama Canal Ship Almost Smashes Into Gamboa Bridge (Video)

Canal Daily OperationBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - The ships that transit the Panama Canal on a daily basis can be difficult to handle. Yesterday afternoon a bulk carried named the "Pacific Bless", 32300 tons, nearly slammed into the bridge over the Chagres River in Gamboa, and the incident was caught on video.

The ship was Northbound in the Panama Canal, and has just about to clear the area of the Culebra Cut and head off through Lake Gatun. For some reason the pilot lost control of the vessel, and it veered to starboard (right), and was heading right towards the bridge.

The pilot ordered full reverse and dropped the starboard anchor, in an attempt to halt the ship as quickly as possible. In the video below, you can see the smoke pouring from the front of the ship, thanks to the emergency deployment of the anchor.

The ship came to a halt and then slowly backed away from the bridge, with about one meter to spare.

Editor's Comment: Thanks to Paul Stern for bringing this incident to my attention.

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Don't forget to follow Panama Guide on Twitter. Salud.

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Panama Canal Authority Dumping Water From Lakes Alajuela and Gatun

Canal Daily OperationThe Panama Canal Authority is performing preventive water spills through the Gatun and Madden dams, which hold back the waters of Lake Alajuela and Lake Gatun.

The operation is being performed because Lake Alajuela has reached it's peak level, and Lake Gatun is approaching peak.

Because of this operation the ACP has issued a warning to the populations of the communities located on the banks the associated rivers and reservoirs of the waterway, and they should be alert to the sound of sirens warning 15 minutes before, on the opening operation of the gates of the spillways to release water. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: And, the ACP is also expecting more heavy rainfall over the next few weeks, as it always happens in mid November through early December. In an earlier article I recently said the Chilibre Water Treatment Plant draws water from Lake Bayano. That was a mistake. It's Lake Alajuela.

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Panama Canal sets yearly tonnage record

Canal Daily OperationPanama Canal reaches new tonnage record of 333.7 million PC/UMS in FY2012 The Panama Canal set a mark in its history as it reached a new tonnage record of 333.7 million Panama Canal tons (PC/UMS) during fiscal year 2012, according to preliminary figures released by the Panama Canal Authority (ACP).

This figure represents an increase of 11.6 million Panama Canal tons or 3.6 percent compared to the 322.1 million tons registered last year, and also surpasses the previous 2007 record of 312.9 million tons. Under PC/UMS, a mathematical formula is applied to the vessel’s total volume or cargo carrying capacity.

“This milestone attests to the reliable and continuous service offered by the Canal, which is supported by a workforce of 10,000 men and women,” said ACP Administrator/CEO Jorge Luis Quijano.

“The Panama Canal works tirelessly to provide its customers with first-rate service, including new products and services in response to their evolving shipping and maritime needs.”

During fiscal year 2012, Canal Waters Time (CWT) averaged 25.66 hours. The top market segments during this fiscal year were full container vessels with 119.8 million Panama Canal tons, followed by dry bulk carriers and tankers, which were registered at 83.4 million Panama Canal tons and 51.6 million Panama Canal tons respectively.

The Panama Canal’s fiscal year runs from October 1st to September 30th.

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Panama Canal Sets Tonnage Record in Fiscal Year 2012

Canal Daily OperationA new record of 333.7 million tons of cargo passed through the Panama Canal, at the close of the 2012 fiscal year. This represents an increase of 11.6 million tonnes or 3.6% compared to the figure of 322.1 million was generated in fiscal year 2011. According to the Administrator of the Panama Canal, Jorge Luis Quijano, this "historic achievement reflects once again the ability of Panama to manage, maintain current, and add value to a service with global impact."

According to a statement from the Panama Canal Authority (ACP), container ships, bulk carriers and ships, were the segments of the market with the largest movement, generating 119.8, 83.3 and 51.6 million tons respectively. PC/UMS is the Universal Measurement System/Panama Canal, the system used to measure the volumetric capacity of cargo ships transiting the waterway. (Panama America)

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