Panama Canal Expansion Prepares for Long-Awaited Inaugural Passages

Jun 25, 2016 | Panama News, Panama Trade

Panama is almost ready for the first ships to cross the soon-to-be inaugurated expanded Canal. In fact, they’re all set for the first ship to arrive on June 26th, and the normal service to come through around the first week of July. Ships have already set off from Asia to make the journey, and make history. This date can’t come soon enough for the Panama Canal Authority, who has had major setbacks throughout the project, including more than two years of delays for the first passage. But now, that’s all water under the bridge, as a new era approaches for international trade; and more importantly to Panama, an economic boost.


Which ships are crossing the Panama Canal first?

According to the Canal Authority, the first official Post Panamax ship to cross the Canal will be China’s “Cosco Shipping Panama.” The ship was formerly called “Andronikos”, and was renamed specifically in honor of this inaugural passage. This ship nearly maxes out the new size requirements, which are approximately double the size that they were for the past 100+ years. There are currently five megaships at sea that are scheduled to follow Cosco, which will usher in a new era for the famed Canal. These ships will carry everything under the sun, and give companies a major added bonus to cut from Asia to the Atlantic, and everywhere in between.

What the inauguration of the Panama Canal Expansion really means to Panama

Aside from the collective sigh of relief from officials now that the project’s finally done, the Panama Canal Expansion inauguration is significant economically. Ports all over the world will be affected by the opening, and none will see a greater economic boost than Panama. Panama charges close to half a million dollars for each megaship that crosses the Canal, and with a larger, wider area, more than twice the amount of ships will be able to cross daily. The Canal alone represents around a third of Panama’s total GDP, and you can expect this percentage to rise steadily over the next few years, thanks to the expansion.

This is critical to Panama’s current economy, which had stalled in 2014, and has been crawling back substantially ever since. The Panama Canal also isn’t just a short-term economic boost; it’s a long-term economic solution. High demand for shipping should only get higher, and with the new width/depth of the Canal, there is more than enough room to accommodate demand. This will also help in overall investment in Panama, which should help increase confidence after the latest Mossack Fonseca scandal.

How other ports will benefit

Another important trend that will factor into this month’s inauguration, is the increased economic benefit potential of US and European ports. Many ports, especially on the US east coast, will see an immediate increase in traffic. This is huge news for ports that have struggled through economic recession, and not enough traffic to be economically prosperous. The expanded Panama Canal will be a historical, and uplifting event for the people of Panama, its government, and its businesses. And after all of the pomp and circumstance fades, one thing’s for sure: the country is excited to see what happens next. 

Manoj Chatlani

Manoj Chatlani

Manoj Chatlani is a Senior Partner at POLS Attorneys, a full-service law firm in Panama City, Panama. Specializing in Panama immigration law, relocation services as well as real estate law and corporate law. POLS Attorneys offers clients a streamlined solution to all their Panama legal needs. Manoj is a licensed Panamanian lawyer and holds a law degree from USMA, a Masters degree in Communication Law and Panama Tax law.

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