Average CWT decreased 19.3% to 24.18 hours from 29.98 hours. CWT for booked vessels (those ships holding reservations) decreased by 2.4% from 17.2 to 16.78 hours. According to the ACP, the drop in CWT can be attributed to general operating efficiency, the effective use of the waterway’s tie-up stations and a slight decline in transits.
Panama Canal/Universal Measurement System (PC/UMS) tonnage dropped 2% to 79m PC/UMS tons from 80.6m PC/UMS tons. Total Canal transits remained nearly flat with a decline of 1.4% to 3,518 transits from 3,568. Transits of supers, larger ships that require greater time and navigation skills to transit the Canal, declined 3.6% to 1,900 transits from 1,971.
“Soaring oil prices and a general economic downturn, including the US housing crisis, the credit crunch and the dollar devaluation, have impacted global production and trade. As a result, we have seen a slight drop in tonnage and transits during the period,” said Rodolfo Sabonge, ACP’s vice president research and market analysis. “All these elements have affected the demand of manufactured products and the volume of imports bound to the US – the waterway’s largest user – impacting the transpacific route, including the Panama Canal,” he said.
With regard to critical segments, the transits of containers, dry-bulk, vehicle carriers and general cargo dropped, while those of tankers, reefers and other sectors increased. Transits of passenger (mostly cruise) vessels remained flat when compared with Q1 of FY 2007.
The official accident rate was 2.27 per 1,000 transits, compared with no accidents per 1,000 transits in 2007. An official accident is one in which a formal investigation is requested and conducted.
“Because of its role in global trade, the Panama Canal, like other businesses, is beginning to feel some of the effects of an economic slowdown,” said ACP Board Member Guillermo Chapman. “The Canal’s management and fundamentals, however, remain sound. Its net earnings for the current fiscal year will remain well within the original estimate and will continue to have a significant impact on the growth of Panama’s real GDP. Over the past several years, the ACP has moved the Canal toward a market-oriented business model by investing in long-term growth, segmenting its businesses, providing customers with unique products and services and streamlining operations and efficiency,” he said.
Utilisation of the booking system slightly decreased, by 2.6% to 92.6% from 95.1%. ACP is continuing to modify its booking system to respond to new trends and beginning February 1, 2008, it will implement a new and improved reservation system to increase its current system’s efficiency and the availability of slots.