January 19th 2015
Panama transshipment activity is expected to jump by double digits after the new Panama Canal locks open in 2016 and will be followed by longer-term annual growth of about 5 percent, Drewry Maritime Research said in the latest issue of its Container Insight Weekly.
Such a growth pattern would increase Panama’s Pacific transshipments and gateway cargo to about 6 million 20-foot-equivalent units in 2014, Drewry said. Panama’s Pacific terminals now handle about 3.4 million TEUs a year, including some 3.1 million TEUs of transshipments.
Most of the increased transshipment volume will be handled on Panama’s Pacific Coast, where terminals have announced expansion plans that would more than double the current annual capacity of 5 million 20‑foot‑equivalent units.
The planned Corozal container terminal at the canal’s Pacific end would have annual capacity of 5.2 million TEUs when both phases are completed.
In addition, Hutchison last year announced plans to spend $110 million to increase its existing terminal’s capacity to 5 million TEUs by next year. PSA’s new 20-year concession for the nearby Rodman terminal reportedly enables eventual expansion to 1.8 million TEUs from the current 450,000‑TEU capacity.
The expanded Hutchison and PSA terminals theoretically could accommodate 6 million TEUs a year, and the first phase of the Corozal project could further boost the terminals’ annual capacity to 8.2 million TEUs, well enough to meet expected demand during the next decade, Drewry said.
Drewry said transshipment activity for Panama’s Pacific terminals will be driven by growth in Latin America and changes in liner shipping network patterns, and could be affected by competition from other Pacific hubs, including Manzanillo and Lazaro Cardenas in Mexico and Callao in Peru.
“There is also a wild card in the pack as well – the potential Nicaragua canal which, if built, would inevitably impact on both Panama Canal vessel transits and regional container transshipment activity,” Drewry said. The Nicaragua project envisions transshipment ports on both the Atlantic and Pacific ends.
The Nicaragua canal would handle ships of up to 20,000 TEUs, compared with 13,000 to 14,000 TEUs for the new Panama locks. The Nicaragua project is surrounded by skepticism, largely because of the project’s estimated $50 billion cost, which would be nearly 10 times that of the new Panama locks.