Panama Canal Celebrates 102nd Anniversary
The Panama Canal celebrated 102 years of operations and service to the global maritime community last week, 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 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. The Panama Canal has invested more than $3.3 billion in improvements of the original waterway in the past 17 years alone.
These have included upgrades to its locomotive fleet and tracks; installation of new tie-up and mooring stations; deepening of of the lake channels; providing better illumination; expanding the canal’s tugboat fleet from 20 units in 2000 to 46 units; and upgrading 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 in 1999, to a record-breaking 340.8 million tons last year. It is expected that the Panama Canal will increase its annual tonnage over the next five years to 524 million tons.
A large source of this expected growth will be due to the expanded Panama Canal. Since its inauguration, the expanded waterway has received more than 297 reservations.
Upon completing their passage of the expanded canal last 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, making 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 Quijano.