Panama Canal Authority responds to claims of traffic demand challenges


HOUSTON -- The Panama Canal Authority has issued the following response to the Bloomberg story, 'U.S. shale has a Panama Canal problem that's got no easy fix'.

In response to claims that the Panama Canal is facing challenges in servicing the true traffic demands of its liquefied natural gas (LNG) segment, it’s worth noting a few facts. The Canal has more than adequate capacity to tend to all vessels transiting its Neopanamax locks. There are no Neopanamax ships waiting to transit and no delays for customers with reservations, including LNG. The Canal also has more than enough tugboats to service these vessels thanks to recent efforts that doubled the number of tugs it employs and tripled the fleet’s overall towing capacity. It’s been precisely this commitment to planning, resourcing and efficiency that helped us transit a record 403.8 million tons of cargo this past fiscal year.

It’s also worth dispelling claims that LNG vessels need more reservations than are currently available to them. Canal booking data, provided up to a year in advance, shows that demand from the LNG industry to transit the Canal sits at less than seven reservations per week. Proportionately, the Canal offers them one reservation slot a day. But even so, of the LNG reservations that get booked, many go unused. In fact, 40 percent of the LNG vessels that reserve a slot cancel, often close to their transit date which prevents other vessels from using the slot and results in lost capacity for the Canal and other customers.

This is the real challenge we face. The reality is that LNG vessels average four Canal transits per week, far less than the seven slots available to them. And so it’s hard to justify adding capacity until more and more consistent use exists. For now, we will continue to work with stakeholders in the LNG segment–both with our customers, and those vocal few who are not – to engage in an honest and open dialogue over how we can establish and support more fair and reliable agreements together.

Jorge L. Quijano
Administrator of the Panama Canal Authority

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