The geographical position of Panama in the narrowest point of the Central American isthmus strategically connects the countries of the world especially those with commercial activities in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The accessibility provided by the Panama Canal competitively binds all global markets, mainly Asia, Europe, North and South America.
The main trade routes with traffic in the Panama Canal are:
- East Coast of U.S.A. and Asia (Far East)
- East Coast of U.S.A. and West Coast of South America
- Europe and West Coast of South America
- East Coast of U.S.A. and West Coast of Central America
- Coast to Coast of South America
These main routes, along with other that use the waterway, reported for the 2016 fiscal year a total of 329,445 PC/UMS net tonnage, representing a decrease of 3.1% compared with 2015.
Source: Panama Canal
 PC/UMS is the Panama Canal Universal Measurement System. This amount also includes the PC/UMS tonnages for container and passenger vessels.
The Panama Canal operates under a countinuous working schedule of 24 hours, 365 days. This means that the waterway is available for all ships willing to cross from one ocean to another. With an effective traffic scheduling system, the Canal ensures an expedite and secure transit of each vessel if the weather conditions, demand and own vessel's technical conditions permit it.
For the fiscal year 2016, the Panama Canal registered a total of 13,114 transits, either oceangoing or small vessels, transporting 204.7 million long tons of goods, and generating tolls that totaled USD 1,932.9 million.
|Fiscal Year||Number of transits||Tolls||Long tons of cargos|
Source: Panama Canal. Statistics and Models Management Unit (MEEM)
Oceangoing commercial traffic through the Panama Canal by month (FY 2011-2016)
The major oceangoing vessel's traffic by market segment is given by the container carriers that accounted 2,977 ships during the fiscal year 2016, followed by the dry bulk carriers with 2,634 ships, and the chemical tankers with 1,899 transits. The participation of these market segments represented 26%, 23% and 16% respectively of the total number of transits.
- Statistics of the Panama Canal traffic
- Statistics of oceangoing commercial traffic through the Panama Canal by month
- Panama Canal traffic by market segment
A large number of goods transit the Panama Canal ranging from commodities and raw materials, manufactured and high tech products. The main goods that uses the waterway can be grouped into:
- Grains (main oats, corn, soybeans, rice, and other miscelaneous grains)
- Minerals and metals
- Crude oil and fuels
- Containerized cargo
The Panama Canal is committed to remain as an alternative for international trade by satisfying the needs of the maritime industry focusing in understanding the characteristics and needs of each market. This commitment ensures that the services provided by the Canal are adequate to the different segments, either for the toll rates or technical requirements that are demanded.
Part of the Corporate Mission of the Panama Canal is to build long-lasting relationships with the Canal users, adding value to their business and an outstanding quality service.
Among some of the Panama Canal users:
- American President Line
- CMA CGM
- China Ocean Shipping (Group) Company
- Compañía Sud Americana de Vapores (CSAV)
- Evergreen Marine
- Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd (K-Line)
- Maersk Line
- Mediterranean Shipping Co.
- Mitsui O.S.K.
- Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK)
- Seatrade Reefer Chartering NV
- STX Pan Ocean Company LTD
- Wallenius Wilhelmsen Lines
- Zim Israel Compañía de Navegación
Advisories to Shipping
The Panama Canal maintains all their users updated of the requirements, restrictions, security measures, and all kind of general and operational information that is necessary for the smooth operations of the transit activities and other marine services offered to the vessels. Also, the Canal has available in its website the Monthly Canal Operations Summary under Notices to Shipping. These summaries have valuable information such as:
- Resources usage
Traffic statistics, given in monthly average, maximum and minimum values of:
- Canal water times (in hours)
- In-Transit times (in hours)
- Details of oceangoing transits
- Booking slots
- Schedule of Canal infrastructure maintenance outages
- General information
This information is accessible through the following link: