While a record volume growth was much slower than the 10.1% increase in container throughput at Panama ports in 2017. Transhipment boxes accounted for the vast majority of volumes and increased to 6.09m teu.
Topping the honour list was Manzanillo International Terminal (MIT-Panama) that posted cargo volume growth of 18.5% marking its return to the 2m teu milestone with 2.23m teu.
On the Atlantic coast, next to MIT, Evergreen’s Colon Container Terminal (CCT) registered a double digit increase of 16.4% to 816,373 teu a landmark for the terminal. Cristobal, located at the Atlantic entrance of the Panama Canal and administrated by Hutchison’ Panama Ports, saw a decrease of 2.2% to 1.28m teu, down from 1.31m teu in 2017. Cristobal had benefitted in 2016 and 2017 from a relocation of cargo after hurricane Mathew damaged Freeport in the Caribbean.
The expansion of PSA-Panama that raised its capacity to 2m teu and the ability to receive post-panamax vessels, brought an astonishing growth of 646.5% to 608,906 teu, up from 81,568 teu in 2017. The new terminal that was inaugurated in April 2018 is now receiving MSC services which left Balboa and other shipping lines, which has reduced cargo volumes at Balboa, administrated by Panama Ports, by 29.3% to 2.05m teu.
A reshuffle of shipping lines services during 2018 has moved cargo transhipped in Panama to Caribbean ports and Mexico.
Investments in Panama port sector has largely surpassed the $3bn bringing total capacity to 1m teu. Another $1.1bn, 2.5m teu, new terminal on the Atlantic coast is in construction by Chinese consortium Landbridge Group and partners expected to be operational in 2020.
Additional capacity will certainly pose a challenge to existing operators in a market already in a state of oversupply.