The world has come a long way since the letter I wrote in April. As we mark the end to the 2020 Fiscal Year (FY20) and begin a new this month, I would like to relay my appreciation for the partnership afforded over the past few months.
While the Panama Canal has overcome over a century’s worth of changes and trends, our team faced an extraordinary set of circumstances in FY20, from low water levels to trade disruptions to a global pandemic. I am grateful to our workforce and customers, who came together quickly and with great patience to ensure essentials goods continued to travel safely to communities around the world.
What I said in April still holds true – the Panama Canal will do everything possible to remain open. We know the world depends on it.
As the world begins to recover, our team will carry this spirit of partnership forward. We know the landscape is still uncertain and plans are changing quickly, so flexibility will be paramount at the Panama Canal in this new fiscal year.
We will always prioritize safety, as we did when we carefully programmed our resources to match traffic demand during the height of the pandemic to minimize infection risk. These measures have since allowed the Canal to remain open without pausing transits, enabling customers to continue delivering essential goods around the world. Rest assured that we have the capacity to accommodate the recovery swiftly and with the necessary safety measures still in place in the long run.
To ease the burden of the pandemic, we will continue to offer relief measures, such as the suspension of advance payments for transit reservation fees. We now also allow a new method of transit payment in the form of a “line of credit” through a bank guarantee, which will simplify the service request process and cut transaction costs.
Beyond the pandemic, water is another challenge that still lingers on the horizon. Thanks to our customers’ understanding of the temporary measures we put in place earlier this year. Their patience and flexibility allowed us to regain a steady draft and begin FY21 with the highest allowed maximum draft possible at the Neopanamax Locks. Nonetheless, we continue to pursue a new integrated water management system to ensure the Canal’s operational viability in the decades to come, while cementing the waterway’s role in achieving a low-carbon future.
Thank you for your partnership during the waterway’s 106th year in operation, and my first year as Administrator. We look forward to many more years of partnership to come.
Dr. Ricaurte Vásquez Morales
Panama Canal Administrator
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