Just The Beginning

cocoli lockIn its first month of operation, the Panama Canal’s new neopanamax locks recorded a total of 55 vessel transits according to the Panama Canal Authority (ACP).

Of the 55 vessels to make the transit, there were 29 container ships, 22 LPG tankers, two “carriers”, and two LNG carriers. Looking ahead, the ACP said it has received reservations for more than 229 vessels.

“We are totally satisfied with what we have seen during the first month of operation of the expanded Canal,” said Canal Administrator Jorge Luis Quijano.

There was one, relatively minor incident, when bad weather caused a ship to hit the side wall making a gash in the side of the ship. Panama Canal pilots and their union have continually questioned taking ships through the new locks with only tug boats and not the traditional engines or “mules” that have been used and are still used in the original locks to keep vessels centered.

Standard question on board … how much? The lowest toll was paid by adventurer Richard Halliburton who paid 36 cents to swim the Canal in a publicity stunt in 1928.

The highest toll for the original locks is quoted at $375,600 for the NORWEGIAN PEARL in 2010. That is a little misleading, however, because the “toll” is like the cost of an air ticket … and then you add on all the “fees.” The advance reservation fee is $25,000 to be sure you have a slot and to guarantee a daylight transit you add another $30,000 so we’re up to $430,000! Sometimes when I ask cruise ship captains what the transit costs, their numbers don’t add up with mine … until I factor in the advance reservation fee and daylight transit fees, which show up differently in the ship’s cost accounting.

But all those old records are smashed by the cost of taking ships through the new locks! The last “highest toll record” I heard of was $837,203 for a ship called the MOL BENEFACTOR on July 8th.

While shipping traffic is down worldwide, and a lot of cargo ships are in mothballs right now, the Panama Canal has consistently raised rates and made more money. The traffic Suez had siphoned off has returned.

The 76.8% of Panamanians who voted for the Panama Canal Expansion project made the right choice for Panama and it’s future.

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