Panama Canal growth pushes cargo from air to sea

Panama’s air cargo industry has lost market share to ocean transport as a result of increases in the use of the Panama Canal port,s and the trend is expected to continue as the transport artery is widened.
Speaking at the Air and Sea Cargo Americas event in Miami, Copa Airlines senior director cargo Jaime Alvarez Price explained that the number of shipping line services transiting the artery over recent years had increased and this had a knock-on effect for air cargo.
“Panama has more and more activity on the marine side,” he said. “Since we are in airfreight, what we have seen is more and more of the airfreight being transported by sea.
“There are more ships coming into the port more frequently than before. Previously it would take a week to get a ship to destination, now there are two or three a week.”
To make matters worse, experts expect the number of shipping containers transiting the Panama Canal to increase from next year when a project to widen the facility and allow larger vessels to pass through is completed.
“Activity on the oceanside is growing and will continue to grow, not necessarily multimodal. I hope I am wrong but I expect to see it,” he said.
However, DHL Global Forwarding chief executive for the Americas Mathieu Floreani said shippers had been put off using US west coast ports by this year’s industrial action and a more long term shortage of truckers and Panama’s air cargo industry could benefit from this development.
“I’ve had conversations with many customers and they come into LA, truck across the country to Miami and fly into Latin America,” said Floreani.
“Many of these companies are now considering going direct to Panama and then flying it out of Panama.”
There were also other factors affecting the country’s airfreight industry, said Price.
He explained the number of barriers for trade in Latin America had increased in recent years and the number of regional trading blocs had also grown, both affecting the amount of cargo being flown in from outside South America.