Panama port container volumes fall 2.4%

Photo of author

By Marco Echevarria

At the end of the year, according to the Maritime Authority of Panama, 8.31 million TEUS (20-foot containers) were mobilized, 202,129 less than the more than 8.51 million mobilized in the entire year 2022.

International trade that moves by ship experienced several challenges in 2023.

On the one hand, the water crisis in the Panama Canal due to climate change, which led to a reduction in the number of daily transits that forced the reconfiguration of maritime routes, the consolidation of cargo or the use of alternative routes.

Until the geopolitical tensions due to ship attacks in the Red Sea that affected navigation activity in the Suez Canal.

In the midst of this scenario, the ports suffer the international and local effects. According to data from the Panama Maritime Authority (AMP), the movement of containers in Panamanian ports registered a decrease of 2.4% at the end of last year.

In 2023, a total of 8.31 million TEUS (20-foot containers) were moved, representing a decrease of 202,129 units compared to the previous year, when the figure of more than 8.51 million TEUS was reached in 2022.

A total of 6 ports operate in Panama for the movement of cargo. Of this amount, two registered positive figures in 2023, Bocas Fruit Co., which reported a 15.7% increase to total 77,528 TEUs, and Panama Ports Company Balboa with 2.31 million TEUs, which represented a 6% increase in container movement in a year. anus.

The rest of the ports accumulated declines in 2023 of -6% in the case of Colon Container Terminal, -4.4% Manzanillo International Terminal, -2.8% Panama Ports Company – Cristobal and -9.5% for PSA Panama International Terminal.

The president of the Maritime Chamber, Yora Poyser, indicated in December that 2023 would close as one of the most challenging years for the auxiliary maritime industry and for cargo transportation. The crisis due to the lack of water, the reduction in the number of transits and the month and a half of road blockages meant losses for the logistics industry in general.

The transshipment or cabotage of merchandise from one port to another also did not have a positive year, despite the fact that several shipping companies decided to leave the cargo on one side to transfer it by land or train between the Pacific and the Atlantic or vice versa.

In 2023, the number of containers being transshipped in Panamanian ports closed with a drop of -3.2%, to total 7.32 million TEUs moved.

When looking at the figures month by month, an increase was recorded as the Canal accentuated the restriction of daily ship traffic, which went from 38 a day to 34 between August and September, later it dropped to 32 and 31 in October, to be reduced to 22 in December and begin 2024 in 24 daily transits.

The months of greatest reduction in transit coincided with a slight improvement in cargo transshipment at ports.

In September it increased 0.6% and 628,905 Teus were moved. In October, cargo cabotage grew 3% to close at 656,351, in November due to the blockages that affected cargo transportation between Colón and Panama City in both directions, transshipment grew 1% (599,192 TEU) and closed December with growth. of 6% (649,629 TEU).

By port, Balboa registered positive figures in the movement of transshipment cargo with an increase of 5.5% to total more than 2.07 million TEUs at the end of last year.

Unctad, a United Nations agency for trade and development, warned that the drought problems affecting the Panama Canal, a key route for global trade, have caused a 36% reduction in total transits in the canal. last month compared to a year ago.

“The long-term implications of climate change on canal capacity are raising concerns about lasting impacts on global supply chains. “The crisis in the Red Sea, marked by Houthi-led attacks disrupting sea routes, has added another layer of complexity.”

Given this panorama, Panamanian ports will continue to be affected by both internal issues and factors that affect global maritime trade.

This article has been translated from the original which first appeared in Prensa