THE PREVIOUS CANAL AND EXPECTATIONS FOR THE NEW CANAL
Since its opening in August 1914, over a million boats have passed through the Canal, carrying cargo weighing more than 9 billion tons. It brings in about $2 billion a year in revenue for Panama.
In 2014, 326 million tons of cargo were carried down the Canal – an increase of 1.8% over the previous year – with revenues of $1.91 billion, up 3.2% over 2013.
However, the importance of the old Canal to shipping has been on the decline because access is limited to Panamax ships, forcing international trade to take other combined sea- land-and-sky routes to get around the barrier formed by the American continent – even if this costs more. Shipping traffic in the canal fell 1.3% in 2014, from 13,660 to 13,481 ships.
Even so, the income from shipping and the fees paid by ship owners and shipping companies is not the only source of revenue from the Canal. The year 2014 also marked a record number of tourist visits, with 982,392 people travelling to admire the operations of the two ocean locks. The increase in visitors compared to 2013 was some 11%, thanks also to the tourist appeal of the new canal under construction.
In total, between shipping tariffs, maritime services and tourism, the canal brought $2.7 billion into Panama’s coffers – an increase of about 5%.
The new locks will be able to handle a maximum ship size – now known as Post-Panamax – of 427 metres long and 49 metres wide, with a draught of 15 metres.
Load capacity will be almost tripled: from 5,000 to 12,600 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent unit). Each ship will be able to carry 12,600 twenty-foot (6.1 m) containers or 6,300 forty-foot (12.2 m) containers.
The Panama Canal connects 1,700 ports in 150 countries with 144 sea routes, with 3% of all trade by sea passing through it each year, worth nearly $270 billion.
The approximately 12 thousand ships travelling from one side of the continent to the other take between 8 and 10 hours for the trip and pay Panama almost $2 billion a year in tolls, at an average monthly tariff take of over 165 thousand dollars.
And these figures are poised to increase significantly.
The Panamanian authorities have already set the tariffs for using the New Canal. For example, a 10,000 TEU container ship at 80% capacity currently costs $804,000 to navigate the canal. From 2016, it will cost $780,000.
When the New Canal is fully operational, Panama expects total revenue of $5 billion a year.