The Panama Canal reached its 106 years of operation this August 15, with its validity strengthened in the midst of an unprecedented health crisis. Its role as facilitator of world trade has allowed it to guarantee a continuous and safe service during the current pandemic, and at the same time, keep the north in its main challenge for the future: water.
Just this week, on Monday, August 10, reaching 10,000 transits through the expanded Canal since its opening four years ago, the interoceanic highway reaffirmed its role in the global supply chain.
“The events of this week: our 10 thousandth Neopanamax transit and the 106th anniversary mark new milestones that reaffirm the competitiveness of the Panama Canal, backed by a continuous, safe and reliable service,” said administrator Ricaurte Vásquez Morales.
In the midst of the current pandemic, the Panama Canal has maintained its regular operations, reinforcing its sanitary and security protocols to allow the constant transport of essential goods and contribute to promoting the post-Covid-19 economic reactivation.
The Panama Canal closely follows the changes facing the markets to be prepared and take advantage of opportunities. For example, an approach from manufacturing centers to consumption centers is anticipated, resulting in the restructuring and regionalization of global supply chains.
This dynamic would drive greater transit of larger and heavier ships that transport bulk and dry cargo through the Panama Canal, underscoring the importance of ensuring an operational water level that meets customer needs.
Towards the future: water
This market projection reaffirms the efforts of the Panama Canal to find a long-term solution for the availability of water in the Gatún and Alhajuela lakes, which, between them, supply half of the country’s population, and feed the main natural resource for the operation of the road.
As a result of the climate crisis, in 2019, the Panama Canal Watershed experienced its fifth driest year in 70 years, with less rainfall, causing lake levels to drop well below average.
Faced with this scenario, the Canal acted by implementing measures such as a charge for fresh water that came into effect last February, in addition to water conservation practices that had been in place months before.
These measures made it possible to maintain a stable draft despite the lack of rainfall in 2019. As a result, the road was able to offer a draft of 48 feet, the highest in more than 12 months.
The Panama Canal continues its search for long-term solutions and hopes to identify a comprehensive portfolio of projects aimed at strengthening the water resources management efforts of the Watershed by 2021.