Panama Canal Sets New Annual Tonnage Record in 2018

expanded panama canal
An LNG carrier transits the Expanded Panama Canal in June 2018. Photo: Panama Canal Authority

The Panama Canal has set a new annual record for the total amount of tonnage that passed through the waterway over the course a fiscal year, recording a total tonnage 442.1 million Panama Canal tons (PC/UMS) in FY 2018.

This amounts to a 9.5 percent increase compared to 2017, when 403.8 million PC/UMS passed through the Canal. The figure also surpasses forecasted estimates and obviously sets a new record in the 104-year history of the waterway.

“The Panama Canal continues to exceed our expectations, reinforcing every day the importance of the waterway’s expansion and its impact on global maritime trade,” said Panama Canal Administrator Jorge L. Quijano. “This is the results of the efforts of our committed workforce who made this an extraordinary year.”

The Panama Canal Authority said the increase was driven by the transit of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and natural liquefied gas (LNG) carriers, containerships, chemical tankers and vehicle carriers.

During FY 2018, the Panama Canal increased the total available booking slots to eight daily for its Neopanamax Locks, offering more flexibility and efficiency to customers choosing the route.

Panama Canal’s Performance by Segment

The container segment continued to be the leading market segment for tonnage through the Canal, accounting for 159 million PC/UMS tons of the total cargo, including 112.6 million PC/UMS tons that transited the Expanded Canal, or approximately 70 percent. 

Tankers, which include liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers, were the second leading market segment with 130.3 million PC/UMS tons.

The next leading segments included bulk carriers, at 73.7 million PC/UMS tons, and vehicle carriers at 49.5 million PC/UMS tons.

Panama Canal’s Main Users and Routes

In terms of cargo tonnage, the main routes using the Panama Canal in FY 2018 were between Asia and the U.S. East Coast, the West Coast of South America and the U.S. East Coast, the West Coast of South America and Europe, the West Coast of Central America and the U.S. East Coast and intercoastal South America.

The main users during FY 2018 were United States, China, Mexico, Chile and Japan.

Meanwhile, a total of 62.8 percent of the total cargo transiting the Canal had its origin or destination in the United States, according to the Panama Canal Authority.

The Panama Canal’s 2018 Fiscal Year began on October 1, 2017, and ended on September 30, 2018.