Panama, July 6 2001. Panamax vessel transits continue to increase according to Panama Canal forecasts. During the first eight months of current fiscal year 2001, from October 1, 2000 through September 30, 2001, Panamax transits rose significantly to 3,036 transits, representing 35.9 percent of total oceangoing transits.

Though the figures for oceangoing transits were not as high as expected, they did increase by 0.9 percent to 8,465 or 34.8 transits per day.

Cargo tonnage also rose to 132.2 million long tons, which is 2.7 percent more than tonnage in the same period in fiscal year 2000. Commodities that accounted for the growth included containerized cargo, which continues to grow, and petroleum, as well as grains, fertilizers, refrigerated products, machinery, metals and minerals.

These latest statistics were presented to the Panama Canal Board of Directors by Administrator Alberto Aleman Zubieta in a meeting yesterday. Aleman Zubieta also reported on the locks modernization program, which is underway. During the eight- month period, some 1,760 feet of tow track were replaced in the Pedro Miguel Locks, while original miter gate mechanisms were replaced with hydraulic systems in the Miraflores Locks. Additionally, the Culebra Cut widening project continues on schedule and is set for completion in December 2001.

Finally, Aleman Zubieta briefed the Board on the ongoing communications campaign in the Canal’s Western watershed region. The program has continued to progress and studies are underway to determine the region’s characteristics.