So far, a disappointing year for container movements

After three quarters, the Panamanian port system grew 6.9% compared to the same period of 2011, but its growth rate is lower in relation to the last two periods prior to the global financial crisis in 2009 that hit the Panamanian port industry causing it to fall in container movements for the first time since privatization.

This year the port system was affected by the April crisis in Balboa and Cristobal that triggered a traffic jam and more recently by the social crisis in Colon. However, the latter will not be reflected until the end of October 2012.

Traditionally in October high volumes of containers move for the Christmas season, but the cargo starts dropping off in the port system in December.

Official statistics of the Panama Maritime Authority (AMP) reveal that up to September 5,206,290 TEUs had been moved compared to the 4,872,331 TEUs in the same period last year.

But a curious fact is that September was the worst month for some port operators in relation to the rest of the year.

In the case of Manzanillo International Terminal (MIT) the movement grew only slightly by 1.1% compared with previous months this year, while the Balboa Container Terminal moved only 2.5% more than in previous months.

Meanwhile, the port of Cristobal, in Colon province, continued its fall recording an overall decrease of 2.2% compared to the same period of 2011, but in September it continued to decline by a rate of 26.2% compared with the previous month. This port had an accumulated movement at the end of the third quarter of 2012 of 679,923 TEUs in relation to the same period last year of 695,260 TEUs.

The only port showing positive growth every month is Colon Container Terminal (CCT) that has seen robust growth in the past four months. Up until the end of September, CCT had handled 457,525 TEUs for a growth rate of 24.3% compared to the same period last year and the growth rate of this port is the best of all the container terminals of Colon.

A new actor in 2012 is PSA Panama International, operator of the container terminal of Rodman, at the Pacific entrance of the Canal, which until the end of September had handled 43,730 TEUs. This terminal began operations, according to statistics from the AMP, last February when it handled only 1,376 teus, getting a big break in April during the labor crisis in Balboa and Cristobal when it picked up 12,858 TEUs, but there was a subsequent decline to 758 TEUs handled in the month of September.

Everything indicates that the port system closed with a slight increase versus the same period last year, but not to the extent expected, which was a double-digit rate to enable the port system to exceed 7 million TEUs this year.

Now awaited are the results of October to see if the latest crisis in the logistics center further affected Panamanian container movement.

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