SLIGHTLY fewer vessels used the Panama Canal in the three months to the end of December, the first quarter of the Panama Canal Authority's fiscal year. Although Canal Waters Time (CWT), the average time it takes a vessel to transit the Canal (including waiting time for passage) significantly decreased, the ACP also noted slight declines in net tonnage, total transits and transits of “supers” (vessels 91 feet or more in beam).

Average CWT decreased 19.3 percent – to 24.18 hours from 29.98 hours. CWT for booked vessels (those ships holding reservations) decreased by 2.4 percent – from 17.20 hours to 16.78 hours. The drop in CWT can be attributed to general operating efficiency, the effective use of the waterway’s tie-up stations and a slight decline in transits. Panama Canal/Universal Measurement System (PC/UMS) tonnage dropped 2.0% – to 79.0m PC/UMS tons from 80.6m. PC/UMS tons. Total Canal transits declined by 1.4% percent, to 3,518. transits from 3,568. Transits of supers declined 3.6%, to 1,900 transits from 1,971.

“Soaring oil prices and a general economic downturn, including the US housing crisis, the credit crunch and the dollar devaluation, have impacted global production and trade. As a result, we have seen a slight drop in tonnage and transits during the first quarter,” said ACP Vice President of Research and Market Analysis Rodolfo R. Sabonge. “All these elements have affected the demand of manufactured products and the volume of imports bound to the United States – the waterway’s largest user – impacting the transpacific route, including the Panama Canal. Moreover, we will continue to set the bar high, providing our customers with the safe, reliable and efficient service that they have come to know.”

By shipping sector, transits of container ships, dry-bulkers, vehicle carriers and general cargo ships dropped, while transits of tankers, refrigerated cargo and other sectors increased. Transits of passenger (mostly cruise) vessels remained flat when compared with Q1 of FY 2007.