PANAMA CITY – U.S. economic woes have influenced estimates of the Panama Canal Authority, which now forecasts a 5 percent drop in cargo tonnage going through the waterway in 2008 and 2009.
The authority, known as the ACP, said that cargo transiting the canal will show a decrease close to 19.9 million tons, or a total of 294.1 million tons of exports on the year.
ACP Marketing Director Rodolfo Sabonge told the press that the forecasts are nonetheless subject to the way the United States and other countries stricken by the world financial crisis manage to reactivate their economies.
The ACP said that ship traffic going through the canal was also affected by high fuel costs and the devaluation of the U.S. dollar.
The canal closed the 2008 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, with a total of 14,702 crossings, or 12.9 percent less than the previous year.
But toll revenues in 2008 totaled $1.32 billion, an increase of 11.3 percent over the previous year.
Since the United States transferred the canal to Panama on Dec. 31, 1999, up to the fiscal year 2008, the ACP has collected some $10.8 billion, of which it has turned over to the government $3.27 billion.
The United States, which administered the canal between 1904 and 1999, gave Panama some $1.5 billion in all those years for the use of its privileged geographic position between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.