Panama Canal Administrator Jorges Quijano has said that the expanded Panama Canal, which is due to be completed in early 2016, could be given a trade boost as a result of the recent US West Coast port dispute after container ships operating along the canal had reportedly been carrying up to 7% more loaded containers as a result of congestion.
“There’s an opportunity here. If the West Coast has some difficulty, of course Panama is an option. We will be ready to do what we can to attract whatever amount of cargo is there”, the Financial Times reported Mr Quijano as saying.
The Panama Canal Authority said “the [Panama] Canal route offers many advantages to the industry: Not only does it provide connectivity and a strategic location – which translate to time-savings and cost reductions; we are in the process of implementing a more attractive price strategy and working on a new business development program to attract more cargo. We are also implementing a loyalty program for containerships that will provide better rates to those lines that use the Canal more frequently.
“In terms of what we are seeing with regard to cargo flow, during this fiscal year, the container segment saw an increase in capacity and loaded TEU volumes. For example, during the month of January, we saw a rise of cargo volumes in comparison to last year’s figures. Usually in January, we see a traffic decline because of low season. This may be attributed to the situation in the West Coast, as well as other factors that play a role in the way shippers make decisions.”
All 29 US West Coast ports were closed at the beginning of February, following a labour dispute between the International Longshore Workers Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).
The dispute has now been settled, after a 5-year labour contract was agreed between both the ILWU and the PMA, however, the massive backlog of shipping containers remains a concern for the US West Coast.