Weekly capacity on Far East to US East Coast all-water services has surged by 20% year-on-year, to reach a record high of 143,000 teu this month, according to market analyst Alphaliner.
A total of 25 weekly strings currently serve the trade, four more than one year ago. Six strings were launched between March and May this year, of which four are brand new services.
In addition to these new loops, two seasonal summer strings were re-launched at the end of the winter slack season.
The Panama route currently accounts for 51% of the total capacity on the all-water trade, retaking the traditional lead that the Panama Canal had on this trade over the Suez Canal, Alphaliner added.
The Panama share had been dropping steadily from 74% at the beginning of 2010, to fall to an all time low of 44% in February this year. This was before the launch of the new strings, starting from March, shifted the balance back in favour of the Panama Canal.
In fact, five of the six strings launched or re-launched this year use the Panama route. The 16 container services currently routed via Panama have a combined weekly capacity of 73,000 teu with an average capacity of 4,570 teu, compared to nine strings routed via Suez with a total capacity of 70,000 teu and an average capacity of 7,780 teu.
Alphaliner said that in contrast to the surge in the all-water capacity to the US East Coast, due mainly to the diversion of transpacific cargo from the United States’ Pacific Ports to the Atlantic and Gulf ports, weekly capacity on Far East to US West Coast services has remained stagnant year-on-year.
The Panama Canal has taken another important step toward the completion of the Expansion Program as it has started filling and testing the new locks on both the Pacific and Atlantic side of the canal.
As of the end of May, the overall Expansion Program of the Panama Canal stood at 89.8 percent complete, according to the Panama Canal Authority (ACP).
Upon completion, the two new lock complexes will have a total of 16 gates, eight in the Pacific and eight in the Atlantic.
The USD 5.2 billion expansion project is slated for completion in December 2015.
Images: Panama Canal