The Panama Canal Authority said it had record tonnage in its fiscal year 2011, which ended on Sept. 30, but also acknowledged that some parts of its project to expand the canal are taking longer than expected.
"Four years after the beginning of the expansion work, the board feels extremely satisfied with the labor accomplished by the administration and the entire workforce involved in the canal expansion project," Rómulo Roux, chairman of the board of authority, said in his introduction to the authority's annual report. "The board of directors has been monitoring the progress of various projects that make up this great achievement, some of which have exceeded time and cost expectations."
Administrator Alberto Alemán Zubieta writes in the report that "the various works of the expansion program are advancing steadily. During this year, significant milestones have been reached which reflect the work in progress, such as the pouring of concrete for the new locks on the Atlantic and the Pacific sides, and the first phase of the filling of the new access channel on the Pacific side."
In a separate statement Alemán said "the pouring of the concrete for the third set locks didn’t start as planned because the contractor didn´t comply with the correct concrete mix until July 2011. Once the quality was up to the standards specified in the contract, the contractor started the pouring of concrete. Since then they have been increasing their daily pouring of concrete to catch up for the lost time, taking advantage of the dry season in Panama. The other major components of the canal expansion are ahead of schedule."
Grupo Unidos por el Canal (GUPC), which is building the canal is subject to large penalties if they deliver the project late.
According to its annual report
vessels transiting the canal hit 14,684 in 2011, 3.2 percent more than the prior year. Of that number, 53.3 percent were so-called Panamax ships, the largest size that can fit through the existing locks of the canal.
The canal uses a measurement called the Panama Canal Universal Measurement System (PCUMS)
to calculate tolls and measure traffic. The authority said in fiscal 2011 it had a record of 322.1 million PCUMS tons of traffic, 7.3 percent more than in fiscal 2010.
Revenue totaled 1.73 billion Panama balboa, 16.7 percent more than the prior year as a result of traffic growth and a January 2011 toll increase. Balboas have the same value as the U.S. dollar.
The canal said 3,253 container vessels moving 112.7 million PCUMS tons used the canal. It noted that beginning January 1, 2011, it had implemented a new toll structure for container ships, with a fixed component based on the TEU capacity of the vessel, and a variable portion based on the number of TEU’s actually carried on board during transits. The full container vessels segment registered 11.5 million TEU´s capacity and 5.3 million TEU’s were actually transported, generating 890 million balboa in revenue.
For other sorts of shipping:
- There were 3,285 transits by dry bulk ships, a 7.7 percent increase over the prior year. Transits by Panamax ships account for 67.4 percent of the total drybulk transits. PCUMS tonnage for dry bulk ships was up 10.3 percent over fiscal year 2010, the highest level in the past 15 years. Tolls were up 24.5 percent.
- There were 1,479 refrigerated vessel transits. Transits were down 20.5 percent, billable tonnage was off 18 percent and tolls were down 20.5 percent. The canal attributed this to growing carriage by container ships of reefer cargo. It noted Maersk Line introduced two new liner services from Ecuador, the main source of refrigerated cargo through the canal, which competes head-on with the transportation of bananas on conventional reefer vessels.
- There were 2,322 transits by tankers, a 4 percent increase. Tonnage was up 5.3 percent and tolls up 14.6 percent.
- There were 633 transits by vehicle carriers, a 4.3 percent increase over fiscal 2011. Billed tonage was up 5.1 percent and toll revenues were up 14.8 percent over the prior year.
Canal officials also told American Shipper
that they believed the locks would be completed on time.