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Panama ports weather the storm in Q1

Panamanian ports have reported healthy cargo volumes figures in the first quarter of 2020, but expect to COVID-19 impact from the second quarter.

After a positive Q1 most port operators forecast they are beginning to see to see the impact on container volumes related to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying it is unlikely the statistics for the second quarter of the year will remain positive.

At PSA-Panama, on the Pacific side, the terminal saw a 11% increase in throughput to 316,157 teu, compared to the same period in 2019.

Cargo volumes were driven by reefers’ high season increased volumes in line with seasonality of last year but with a much stronger base and an increase on empty reefer evacuations to cater for the reefer exports from WCSA (Ecuador and Peru) and increased move count on Transatlantic Services during the months of January and February 2020, PSA-Panama executives said.

 Hutchison’s Panama Ports that administrates the ports of Balboa on the Pacific and Cristobal on the Atlantic reported cargo volumes for 1Q, 2020 of 463,821 teu and 283,520 teu respectively. At the same period of 2019, Balboa suffered a strike which brought the terminals to substantial decreases in cargo volumes of double digits.

SSA Marine’s Manzanillo International Terminal (MIT-Panama), on the Atlantic side had a slight decrease of 2% to 678,334 teu compared to 692,300 teu in the last quarter of 2019. Evergreen’s Colon Container Terminal (CCT) saw a slight decrease 0f 6.6% during the months of January and February 2020. March figures were not available.

All the terminals have introduced very strict sanitation measures which have increased costs of operation.

“Operations continue within the port and significant effort is being made to maintain a safe environment during the pandemic. Some additional measures the port has taken include checking temperatures of personnel, fumigation and additional disinfecting of work areas, establishing additional workstations, transportation, and eating areas to promote social distancing between personnel, placement of disinfecting agents in all areas of the facility for personnel to use, and providing personal protective gear to all employees,” said MIT executives.

PSA and Balboa have also implemented new measures which vary slightly from one terminal to another. “We are doing internal hygienic campaigns, temperature testing at the entrance of terminal facilities (both for internal and external staff). Lashing workers are provided with masks (N95), goggles and gloves before going onboard. All other employees (Security, Planners) are no longer boarding the ships, duties are carried out virtually (email, phone),” said PSA management.

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