PANAMA CITY, Panama, December 09, 2003 – The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) today announced 2003 fiscal year metrics, ending in September. These metrics indicate that the ACP’s recent operational and capital improvements continue to yield positive results, with the Canal safer and more efficient than it has ever been in its 89-year history. Year-end statistics reveal an increase in tonnage flow through the Canal and a reduction in Canal Waters Time (CWT), the average time it takes a vessel to navigate the Canal including waiting time for passage. Furthermore, safety has improved on the waterway, with a significant decline in accidents in 2003, compared with those registered in 2002 and 2001.

In FY2003 the ACP posted revenues of $921 million, marking a 15 percent increase from the $799.8 million registered in the previous fiscal year. The Canal reduced average CWT in FY2003 to slightly below 23 hours. This is a dramatic change, since more tonnage (242.5 million PC/UMS tons) was handled in FY2003, a three percent increase over the FY2002 total of 234.9 million PC/UMS tons.

A substantial increase of Panamax ships was also observed in FY2003. The tonnage increase can be attributed to a growth in transits of ships measuring 900 feet or more in overall length. Nine hundred and eighty of these vessels transited the Canal in FY2003, compared with the 715 vessels that transited the Canal in FY2002. This reflects an increase of 37 percent in just one year. Similarly, 40 percent of the 11,725 oceangoing vessels that transited the Canal in FY2003 were Panamax-sized, compared with the 38.5 percent registered in the preceding fiscal year. This trend towards Panamax ships as the preferred mode of transport is likely the result of a dramatic rise in the container segment of the shipping industry. Other goods that registered an increase in FY2003 were grains, automobiles and auto parts, chemicals and petrochemicals, refrigerated products and coke carbon.

With the ACP’s enhancements in operations and technology, the Panama Canal was able to handle significantly larger amounts of cargo than ever before, resulting in outstanding improvements in service for FY2003. The ACP’s complete focus on operational improvements and its ongoing permanent modernization program have led worldwide customers to recognize the Canal as an essential component to the “All-Water Route”, the most reliable route of trade.

Significant capital improvement efforts in FY2003 have contributed to the Canal’s ability to handle increased traffic. Projects have included: the deepening of the Gatun Lake channel; the acquisition of new locomotives and rehabilitation of the locomotive tracks; the addition of new tugboats; improved aids to navigations; a training and research maritime simulator center; and the implementation of the Automatic Identification System (AIS) – a sophisticated vessel tracking system.

“The ACP works relentlessly to improve Canal operations on behalf of our customers worldwide. This has been one of the most exciting years in the Canal’s history. With the many strides we have made, the Canal continues to provide safe and reliable service and plays an integral role in the growing ‘All-Water Route’,” said Alberto Alemán Zubieta, Administrator of the Panama Canal Authority. “The ACP recognizes and actively supports the shift toward containerization. We have upgraded technological equipment like our meteorological radar and our navigation systems, and have invested in capital improvement projects to make every transit as safe and efficient as possible.”

The ACP also has continued to make important strides to improve safety. During FY2003, a new safety record was set: only 12 maritime accidents occurred, out of a total of 13,154 transits. This number reflects a 29.4 percent decrease when compared to the total of 17 maritime accidents reported in both 2002 and 2001. An official accident is one in which a formal investigation is requested and conducted.

“The reduction in accidents to only 12 for an entire year reflects the outstanding efforts of our world-class workforce. Our employees are the Canal’s most important resource; they are dedicated and committed to making transits through the Canal more safe and efficient,” Alemán Zubieta concluded. “The ACP strives to provide our customers with the most reliable trade route. We are pleased to see our efforts of the past year result in such great operational and financial achievements.”

About the Panama Canal Authority

The Panama Canal Authority is the autonomous agency of the Government of Panama in charge of managing, operating and maintaining the Panama Canal. The operation of the Panama Canal Authority is based on its organic law and the regulations approved by its Board of Directors. For more information, please refer to the Panama Canal Authority’s Web site:

The Authority’s responsibility to the Panamanian people is paramount. The Canal belongs to the people and benefits from the Canal should accrue to as many Panamanians as possible. The Authority will plan its future so that it will continually contribute to the economic development and welfare of the people of Panama.

For nearly 90 years, the Panama Canal has served as the global gateway – a pathway for the shipment of major world commodities. Since the end of 1999, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) assumed the responsibility for the management, operation and modernization of the Canal and the protection and conservation of its watershed. In the past four years, the ACP has made significant strides – shifting to a market-oriented business model focused on customer service and reliability, making major capital investments for new and modern equipment, machinery and channel improvements, increasing safety and operational efficiency for customers, and decreasing the time it takes ships to travel through the Canal. An important transportation link, the Canal services more than 140 different transportation routes from every corner of the globe. It is where major trading routes of the world connect and intersect providing safe, reliable and secure passage for all vessels.