PANAMA CITY, Panama, March 2, 2009 – The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) released first quarter (Q1) operational metrics today for fiscal year 2009. In Q1, there was slight increase in total transits, while net tonnage remained flat. These metrics are based on operations from October through December 2008, the first quarter of the ACP’s 2009 fiscal year, and are compared with Q1 of fiscal year 2008.

Total Canal transits increased 0.1 percent – to 3,520 transits from 3,517. Transits of supers, larger ships that require greater time and navigation skills to transit the Canal, declined 1.4 percent – to 1,874 transits from 1,900.

With regard to key segments, dry bulk, tankers and passenger transits increased, while transits of containers, refrigerated cargo (reefers) and vehicle carriers decreased.

“While the Panama Canal is certainly not immune from the global economic slowdown, the projections that we have made for the ACP’s 2009 fiscal year are still valid,” said ACP Executive Vice President of Operations Manuel Benítez. “The current recession tends to contract the markets and the first quarter metrics are a reflection of that trend. However, we still experienced slight growth in the overall number of transits in Q1 and increases in key segments. The ACP continues to monitor the economic situation daily and provide our customers with safe, reliable and efficient service. The robustness of the Canal business model provides adequate flexibility to accommodate expected changes in the current economic environment.”

Panama Canal/Universal Measurement System (PC/UMS) tonnage remained nearly constant with a slight 1.0 percent decline – to 78.2 million PC/UMS tons from 79.0 million PC/UMS tons.

Average Canal Waters Time (CWT), the average time it takes a vessel to transit the Canal, including waiting time for passage, increased 15.7 percent – to 27.97 hours from 24.18 hours. CWT for booked vessels, those ships holding reservations, experienced a slight increase of 0.5 percent – to 16.94 hours from 16.86 hours.

The official accident rate declined 37.5 percent to 1.42 accidents per 1,000 transits from 2.27 per 1,000 transits. An official accident is one in which a formal investigation is requested and conducted.

Utilization of the booking system slightly decreased 1.52 percent – to 93.73 percent utilization from 95.18 percent.

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