A worker talks on a walkie talkie as cargo ship named Cosco Houston, navigates through Cocoli locks during a test of the new set of locks of the Panama Canal expansion project on the Pacific side in Cocoli, on the outskirts of Panama City, Panama June 23, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso
Today, the Panama Canal celebrated 102 years of successful operations and service to the global maritime community, just one day after welcoming its 100th transit through the Expanded waterway.
The two milestones punctuate a year for the Canal which has already been marked by a number of notable achievements.
Less than two months following the Expanded Canal’s historic June 26 Inauguration, the Neopanamax vessel Hanjin Xiamen became the 100th vessel to transit the new locks, passing through the Canal on the morning of Sunday, August 14. The Panama-flagged containership, which measures 294 meters in length and 40 meters in beam, made its northbound transit from the Pacific to Atlantic Ocean, destined for New York.
To ensure the continued reliability of the Canal over the past 102 years, constant maintenance of the original locks has been crucial. And, for that reason, the Panama Canal has invested more than $3.3 billion in improvements of the original waterway in the past 17 years alone.
Some of these upgrades include:
Upgrades to its locomotive fleet and tracks;
Installation of new tie-up and mooring stations to allow additional Panamax vessels to transit, adding tens of millions of tons to the Canal’s annual capacity;
Deepening of all of the lake channels, increasing draft reliability;
Replacement of high mast lights in the locks to provide better illumination and extend daylight-hour transits;
Investments in the Canal’s tugboat fleet that grew from 20 units in year 2000 to 46 new modern units that have been equipped with greater maneuverability, power and technology;
And, more precise aids to the Canal’s navigation and vessel tracking system.
“All of these investments were carried out with the purpose of providing greater reliability, safety and improved transit times,” said Panama Canal Administrator and CEO Jorge L. Quijano.
“After 102 years, the Panama Canal is rejuvenated thanks to the beginning of operations of the Expanded Canal, ongoing maintenance of its original infrastructure, and the commitment of its workforce of 10,000 talented men and women who make this route one of the main arteries of world maritime trade.”
These investments have also allowed the Panama Canal to grow the total amount of tonnage it handles each year, from 228 million Panama Canal tons (PC/UMS) in 1999, to a record-breaking 340.8 million PC/UMS last year-a 50 percent increase. It is expected that the Panama Canal will continue to increase its annual tonnage during the next five years to approximately 524 million PC/UMS.
A large source of this growth will be due in part to the Expanded Panama Canal. Since its Inauguration, the Expanded Panama Canal has received more than 297 reservations-a figure which continues to grow daily, reflecting the shipping industry’s confidence in the Canal and the impact it will have on the future of world maritime trade.
Upon completing their passage of the Expanded Canal Sunday, three of the four ships that transited the waterway called at Panamanian port terminals on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to discharge and load cargo on the way to their final destinations, thus making full use of the connectivity offered by the country.
“This is a trend which we expect to continue as the Panama Canal continues to invest in and solidify its position as the shipping and logistics hub of the Americas,” said Mr. Quijano.
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