The Panama Canal Authority said it registered a tonnage record of 87.7 million tons during the first quarter of its fiscal year as measured through a special formula that estimates cargo tonnage based on the estimated volume of vessels transiting the waterway.
The tonnage figure, which is used as the basis for charging tolls, is applied to a vessel whether it is fully laden or not.
The 87.7 million tons recorded between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31 represents a 4.8-percent increase from what the Panama Canal Authority estimated.
A total of 3,450 transits were recorded during the period. The results come amidst ongoing debate about how shipping patterns will change with the addition of a third set of bigger locks in 2015, a new toll structure, the economics of operating mega-size cargo ships, and competition from the Suez Canal.
The previous record of 86.2 million Panama Canal Universal Measurement System tons was established in the first quarter of fiscal year 2012.
The Panama Canal Authority said the boost in business was mostly due to robust grain exports from the United States to Asia. In October, a total of 5.2 million long tons of grains were transported through the waterway, the highest level since October 2011.
Transits dipped slightly in fiscal year 2012, but tonnage reached a record 333.7 million tons. Transits are down due to global economic conditions and some loss of market share to the Suez Canal, which Canal officials contend is temporary.