This month marks the end of another record-breaking year at the Panama Canal, no simple feat, given the challenges it faced from global supply chain disruptions to the continued effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy. Behind the waterway’s uninterrupted service stood a world-class team, who worked tirelessly to ensure the waterway remained safe and prepared for whatever the future may have in store for it next.
To celebrate the end of the year, Panama Canal leaders were asked to reflect on the waterway’s top achievements from the past year, as well as what they have in store for 2022.
Although global trade began its resurgence in 2021, the Panama Canal kept its operations teams as agile as possible, given the pandemic’s unpredictable impacts on traffic thus far. The team made prompt adjustments to accommodate the unprecedented surge in demand.
In February, the Canal modified its transit reservation system and other maritime services to adapt its service and better manage its capacity in the face of fast-growing market conditions. The Canal also began offering an auction booking slot for the Panamax and Neopanamax Locks to help alleviate waiting times and offer additional booking options and flexibility for customers.
By October, the Panama Canal celebrated a record-breaking year of transits. “Our achievements in 2021 were made possible by our team’s dedication to understanding our customer’s shifting needs. As they shifted, we listened and evolved our service accordingly, while continuing to keep health and safety as a top priority,” said Ilya Espino de Marotta, Deputy Administrator of the Panama Canal. “We look forward to accommodating even more transits for our customers in the New Year, with containership, liquefied natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas transits already expected to drive growth in 2022.”
Accelerating the Panama Canal’s transition to carbon neutrality will also be a key priority across the waterway’s teams in the coming year, building off the waterway’s fast-growing sustainability initiatives. In just the past year, the waterway launched its CO2 Emissions Savings Dashboard, a tool for calculating the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions saved by vessels that transit the Panama Canal, compared to the most likely alternative route, which found that vessels saved more than 13 million tons of CO2 emissions by opting for the Panama Canal route in 2020.
This past year, the Panama Canal also signed the Call to Action for Shipping Decarbonization with 150 maritime organizations, contributed to the UN Global Compact’s Charting a 1.5 C Trajectory for Maritime Transport, and gave a presentation on sustainable maritime routes at 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26).
In 2022, the waterway will advance its pledge to becoming carbon neutral by 2030, with plans already underway to invest roughly $2.4 billion in modernizing its equipment and infrastructure to meet this commitment. For the operations team, initial next steps include adopting 10 hybrid tugboats, with the option of purchasing another 10, which will reduce tugboat operational carbon emissions by 20 percent. The Canal will also introduce a fleet of electric vehicles, among other measures.
“Our goal is to begin a series of investments that maximize the value we can offer our community, customers and world as a green route and corridor for world trade,” said Victor Vial, Vice President of Finance. “By fortifying our infrastructure, technology and equipment, we can meet this challenge and ensure we continue to deliver the safe, efficient and reliable service we have been delivering for over 100 years.”
Source: Panama Canal Authority