Sailing through murky waters
Many analysts agreed with Mitropoulos statement, however, the Panama Maritime Authority AMP (Autoridad Marítima de Panamá) administrator...
Many analysts agreed with Mitropoulos statement, however, the Panama Maritime Authority AMP (Autoridad Marítima de Panamá) administrator, Fernando Solorzano said that the fact that the country has not been seriously affected by the crisis has been a matter of luck. He added that the maritime sector could cushion other areas that are contributing less to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that have been affected by the financial crisis.
In 2008 the AMP provided the GDP with $63.9 million in comparison with $59 million from the previous year. According to Solorzano last year the AMP generated $119 million, of which 59.9 percent went to the GDP.
During his presentation Solorzano preferred not to reveal his 2009 forecast for the sector and added that the traffic through the canal will not be affected, although reports from the Panama Canal Authority ACP (Autoridad del Canal de Panama) contradict that statement.
The annual report of the ACP about the fiscal year 2007-2008 and the forecasts for 2008-2009 gave the first alert. 2008 closed with a small decrease of 1 percent in the tonnage that was transported through the canal and warned that the situation could become worse this year with a further reduction of 5 percent.
According to the forecast of the ACP, 309.6 million tons passed through the canal in 2008 and the ACP expects a reduction of 19.9 million, which means that only 294.1 million tons will go through the waterway in 2009.
The AMP administrator is cautiously optimistic, mainly due to the other users of the canal and the services it offers. For example he estimated that during 2009 there could an increase of between 20 and 30 percent in the number of contracts with ships. However, he finally admitted that is difficult to determine the impact that the financial crisis will have in the country and even if that was case, nothing could do at the moment to prevent future damages to the maritime sector, at least for another six months.
Solorzano added that during 2009 the maritime sector will be fairly protected thanks to the multi-billion dollar projects that were negotiated last year, like the bidding for the concession of Aguadulce port, with an investment of $3 billion. The panorama is not clear yet, but Panama is on high alert to prevent unpleasant surprises.