Panama Canal forecasts drop in tonnage due to recession

February 10th, 2009 - 12:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Panama City, Feb 10 (IANS) The Panama Canal Authority has forecast a five-percent drop in cargo tonnage going through the waterway in the 2008-09 fiscal year as cargo transit has been badly hit by the ongoing economic crisis, EFE reported Tuesday.

The authority, known as the ACP, said Monday it was expecting a five-percent fall in transit volume this year to 294.1 million tonnes, nearly 19.9 million tonnes less than that of the previous year.

Rodolfo Sabonge, Marketing Director of ACP, said the forecasts are nonetheless subject to the way the US and other countries stricken by the world financial crisis manage to reactivate their economies.

Sabonge said the ship traffic going through the canal was also affected by high fuel costs and the devaluation of the dollar.

The canal closed the 2008 fiscal year, which ended Sep 30, with a total of 14,702 crossings, or 12.9 percent less than the previous year.

However, toll revenues in 2008 totalled $1.32 billion, an increase of 11.3 percent over the previous year, the official said.

Since the US transferred the canal to Panama Dec 31, 1999, up to the fiscal year 2008, the ACP has collected some $10.8 billion, of which it has turned over to the government $3.27 billion.

The US, which administered the canal between 1904 and 1999, gave Panama some $1.5 billion in all those years for the use of its privileged geographic position between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

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