On the Atlantic side, Evergreen’s Colon Container Terminal (CCT) grew by 57.1% to 789,663 teu thanks to the return of several services last year. Cristobal that is operated by Hutchison’s Panama Ports Company grew by 14% to 812,783 teu while Manzanillo International Terminal (MIT) fell slightly by 4.7% to 1.98m teu short of its traditional 2m teu mark.
On the Pacific side, cargo volume decrease was the norm with Panama Ports Co’s Balboa falling 4.9% to 3.08m teu and PSA-Panama also decreasing 6.9% to 216,012 teu.
PSA-Panama began an expansion project in 2015 that will increase its capacity to 2m teu, up from the present 500,00 teu.
Cargo volume slow-down in the main Panamanian terminals reflects a tendency seen since mid-2015 and the economic crisis facing its main partners in the region as well as some internal factors.
“The fall in commodities prices and the strengthening of the dollar has affected countries in the region by limiting their purchasing power that directly influences the volume of cargo passing through Panamanian ports,” said. MIT vp of marketing Juan Carlos Croston.
“Ports in Panama are very much subject to this international reality as we are a transhipment hub.” The port system has also been stricken by internal factors such as port strikes and delays in the Canal expansion. Statistics for the month of January and February 2016, not yet officially published show a drop in volumes according to Croston.
Although the forecast for 2016 seems gloomy, “we have to wait a few months to see if this tendency continues but it is likely that unless global economy recovers promptly we may register very slow growth in 2016,” he said.
“However, 2017 looks like a very fluid year, with the Panama Canal’s additional capacity fully operational and the global alliances’ restructuring coming to terms. A lot of moving pieces will finally start to fall in place. Of course, all that is just a vehicle since we need the economies to pick up speed,” he explained.
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