The Panama Canal has launched its transition process to decarbonise its operations, aiming to become carbon neutral by 2030.
The waterway has purchased four electric vehicles as part of a pilot programme that will collect data to inform the migration of the canal’s entire fleet away from fossil fuel dependence.
Part of its strategic decarbonisation plan also includes tugboats and launches that use alternative fuels, the substitution of electricity production processes in favour of photovoltaic plants, the use of hydraulic energy, and ensuring that all facilities and infrastructure projects are environmentally responsible and sustainable.
Panama Canal Administrator Ricaurte Vásquez Morales said: “We at the Panama Canal are committed to sustainability, and therefore are laying the foundation, creating the tools, and identifying the changes needed to achieve efficiencies that will allow us as an organization to reach carbon neutrality.
“This is a fundamental strategy for the waterway’s long-term operation and sustainability. This process will build on our long-standing efforts to minimise our environmental impact, including encouraging customers to use clean fuels and reduce their carbon footprint.”
According to the canal authority, the shorter route it offers for ships compared to likely alternative routes contributed to a reduction of more than 13m tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions last year.
The Panama Canal first began tracking its carbon footprint in 2013 to align its operations with the global objectives of reducing emissions to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
In 2017 with the Emissions Calculator was launched, allowing shipping lines to measure their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per route, and also strengthening the canal’s analysis of the emissions produced by its own day-to-day operations.
The canal has also looked to maximise its operational and therefore environmental efficiencies by implementing water conservation measures and optimising transits.
Panama’s Maritime Single Window (VUMPA) has improved the efficiency and carbon footprint of transhipment procedures by streamlining logistics paperwork for international customers passing through the country, saving up to 3,260 hours and over 300,000 paper forms each year.
As part of a new national initiative, the canal will develop an annual greenhouse gas inventory, as well as an action plan with measurable targets to reduce emissions.
The canal’s efforts will be factored into Panama’s National Determined Contribution (NDC), established by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), following the Paris Agreement.
Further initiatives are aimed at incentivising shipping lines to minimise their environmental footprint.
The Green Connection Environmental Recognition Programme recognises customers who use low-carbon fuels and environmentally conscious routes while an enhancement to the programme will take vessel technology and carbon footprint into account as part of its dynamic pricing strategy.