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Panama Canal breaks cargo record despite pandemic, US-China trade war

October 5, 2020

The Panama Canal broke its cargo transit record in fiscal year 2020 with the passage of 475 million tons through its waters, despite the pandemic and the trade war between the United States and China, an official source reported Monday.

From October 1, 2019 to September 30, 2020, 475.1 million tons crossed the canal, announced the Panama Canal Authority (ACP).

That tonnage is 1% higher than the previous record, obtained in the previous fiscal year, when 469 million tons were transported through the canal.

However, the ACP acknowledged that the mark reached is 4% lower than initially projected.

In addition, 13,369 vessels crossed the Panamanian isthmus, slightly below the previous year and 2% fewer than expected.

“Fiscal year 2020 was marked by the trade war between the United States and China, the tightening of environmental policies in the maritime industry and, of course, the pandemic, which continues to impact the world economy,” the ACP said in a statement.

According to the ACP, 3.5% of world trade passes through this 80-kilometer canal. Its main users are the United States, China and Japan, and it facilitates routes from Asia to the North American east coast.

Container ships remained the most important segment, contributing 166.3 million tons, or 35% of total cargo.

The canal authority highlighted that the fiscal year that has just concluded “presented two different scenarios” due to the pandemic.

On the one hand, the first semester “was above projected expectations.” But during the second semester, the new coronavirus “disrupted life and the world economy.”

According to the ACP, the months with the worst results were from May to July, with a reduction of around 20% in transits — mainly in the segments of passenger ships, vehicle carriers and liquefied natural gas.

The Panama Canal “reflects the trends of the global economy,” for which this year a contraction of between 5% and 6% is expected as a result of the pandemic, said the ACP, based on estimates from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The United States, the main user of the canal, could see its economy contract up to 8%.

 

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