“One of the greatest pleasures of my life as President was to have the [Torrijos-Carter] treaties approved by the US and Panamanian governments and to deliver the Canal where it ought to be – to the people of Panama,” said President Carter during a recent visit to the Canal, his first since 2000.
The Canal now services more than 144 different transportation routes from every corner of the globe. Since the handover, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has shifted its operations from a profit-neutral utility to a market-oriented business model, and demand has risen as a result of increased customer focus and projects such as the US$1.5bn Permanent Modernisation Programme (PMP). This has included investments in technology, capital improvements and operational measures to increase capacity and improve service, reliability and safety.
In 2006, 56.6% of transiting vessels were Panamax ships or ‘supers’ of 91 ft or more in beam. Total volumes of containerised cargo have grown by more than 100% since 2000, with particularly strong growth seen on the Asia-US East Coast route, which currently accounts for more than 50% of container traffic. In all, 68% of Canal traffic originates from or is destined for the USA.