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The Canal vis-à-vis the Environment

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Canal future could rest on going green

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THE FUTURE of the Panama Canal in the face of accelerating climate change may depend on innovative green initiatives including floating solar panels.

A solar project has a minimum life of 25 years, which means that the strip of land where the solar panels are installed will be unusable for anything else  all that time ” the administrator of Energy Efficiency of the waterway, Urho Gonzal, told Acan-Efe.

In addition, he said,  the installation of solar parks often involves logging, a practice that would endanger the watershed of the canal, where water is stored for the operations of the interoceanic route itself but also for the supply of the Panamanian capital.

“There is no point in devastating trees to construct a solar plant. in the canal we have plenty of lakes and, the efficiency of the solar panels is higher when they are on the water,” adds canal electrical engineer Lucas Rojas.

According to different studies, photovoltaic panels can produce up to 20% more energy if placed on water because it does not accumulate heat, unlike the earth. “There is no project like this in countries with a tropical climate, although they are very fashionable in Asian countries and in Europe, we could say that we are pioneers in Latin America,” says Rojas.

In June China inaugurated the largest floating solar park in the world, which has a power of up to 30 megawatts and is capable of supplying electricity to some 15,000 homes running at full capacity.

The Panama project directed by Gonzal and Rojas is much more modest, but it is an important advance in the green strategy of the channel. It consists of 96 solar panels located in a semi-closed recess of Gatun Lake and close to the Miraflores locks, on the Pacific side of the canal.

At the moment, only 88 plates have been connected, generating 22 kilowatts and supplying a small workshop where some of the tugs that help large vessels to navigate the canal are repaired.

The engineers are working on a larger project, which must pass the approval of the board of directors and consists of the construction of a 10-hectare plant in this same area of the lake, which generates 10 megawatts and which, instead of supplying energy to the small workshop, connect directly to the network of the channel itself.

“Our goal is that the future park will be able to supply 50% of the energy needed by the channel to maintain its operations during the peak hours of the sun,” says Gonzal.

“The potential of Gatun Lake is immense,” says his companion. Engineers were especially concerned that photovoltaic panels would rob oxygen of the lake and damage the rich ecosystem of the canal. but they have realized that the opposite is true: the panels prevent certain species of hydrophyte plants  from growing like the G water lily, which do harm the oxygenation of the water.”

The Panama Canal, built by the United States at the beginning of the 19th century and transferred to Panama on December 31, 1999, is considered one of the greatest works of modern engineering. It unites more than 1,700 ports in 160 different countries and allows the passage of 6% of world trade and the revenue from the passage of vessels is a major contributor to the Panama economy.



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35 million tons drop in Canal CO2 emissions

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CARBON DIOXIDE ((CO2) emissions by ships passing through the Panama Canal fell by 35 million tons in the 2017 fiscal year through the Green program “Connection Award and Environmental Premium Ranking” program.

The program offers a reward to customers who use vessels that meet high environmental efficiency standards established by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

The information was presented to the  National Assembly Public Infrastructure and Affairs Committee on Tuesday, March 6 , by the Canal Administrator, Jorge Luis Quijano.

He also reported that  clients have taken advantage of the benefits of the economies of scale provided by the neopanamax locks on the route through Panama. This is reflected in the number and size of ships that transit the Canal. Since June 26, 2016, until March 2, some  3000 neopanamax vessels have used the new locks.

At present, the daily average of transits is around five ships, a figure higher than the estimate for the fiscal year 2017, and that is expected to increase in the short term, according to projections of the administration.

Last year, the Canal obtained total revenues of $2.886 billion, up more than $383 million over the previous fiscal year.

The total revenue from tolls was $ 2.707 billion, the sale of electric energy generated, $84.6 million; the sale of water, $28.4 million; other income, $33 million and interest earned $33 million.

According to the administration, this performance also allowed reaching a new record of $1.65 billion in direct contributions to the State.



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Panama Canal: Leading the Way to Environmental Excellence

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By MarEx 2018-04-04 19:17:00

Earlier this month, the Panama Canal hosted international experts at an event to discuss ways the global maritime community can adopt more sustainable practices to deliver on their commitments to reducing carbon emissions. 

During “The Green Connection and the New Challenges of the Maritime Industry” event, the Panama Canal welcomed international experts including Dr. Alkut Olcer, World Maritime University Professor, and Dr. Jose Matheickal from the International Maritime Organization (IMO)’s Marine Environment Division – in Panama for the Canal-sponsored Latin America Maritime Technology Cooperation Centre inauguration. Canal executives including Deputy Administrator Manuel Benítez; Executive Vice President of Environment, Water and Energy Carlos Vargas; and Environmental Protection Specialist Alexis Rodriguez discussed not only the obstacles facing shippers and maritime officials as they seek to reduce their carbon footprint, but also the opportunities available to them as a result of the Canal’s shorter route and “Green Connection” initiatives. 

Reducing Emissions

"When shippers choose the Panama Canal over the Suez Canal to travel from Asia to the U.S. West Coast, they release an estimated 12 percent fewer emissions, and reduce emissions by 18 percent when choosing the Canal over the Cape of Good Hope route." - Alexis Rodriguez

“Our customers know that, as long as they prefer the Panama Canal route to transit their cargo, they will avoid lengthy distances, save time, consume less fuel and therefore emit less greenhouse gases (GHG) or carbon dioxide (CO2),” said Mr. Vargas. 

Over the last 103 years, the Canal has directly contributed to the reduction of an estimated 700 million tons of CO2. Thanks to the shorter traveling distance and larger cargo carrying capacity offered by the Expanded Canal, the new waterway is expected to reduce an estimated 160 million tons of CO2 emissions in the next decade alone.

The Green Connection

Beyond offering a shorter, greener route, the Canal is actively taking steps to manage its own resources responsibly – using innovative water-savings basins, sustainable watershed management programs, and planning to become a carbon neutral entity – as well as encourage others to adopt more environmentally friendly practices.
“Our environmental responsibility begins with us. But we are also committed to helping the rest of the maritime community understand that, if we do not take action, climate change will impact us. We are equally committed to offering them the tools and incentives to take that action themselves,” Mr. Benítez told the crowd. “It’s for this reason we launched the Green Connection initiative, giving incentive to ships that burn fuel efficiently or burn fuel with a low sulfur content, which emit less CO2.”

In July 2016, the Panama Canal launched the Green Connection Environmental Recognition Program, honoring customers exceeding sustainability standards set forth by the IMO. The Program is one of the ways in which the Canal reaffirms its commitment to sustainability both at home and within the industry, providing customers tools and incentives, such as the Green Connection Award and the Emissions Calculator, to lessen their environmental impact.  
This April, the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) will meet in London to announce the new Initial GHG strategy focused on ensuring the maritime industry contributes to global efforts to reduce GHG and CO2 emissions. Leading by example and through its work alongside customers, the Panama Canal is taking the necessary steps to address these industry challenges head on.

For monthly updates to the CO2 Emissions Reduction Ranking, please visit The Green Connection website.



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Neopanamax canal transits reduce CO2 emissions


Posted 26/06/2019

Five or six Neopanamax vessels pass through the new locks of the Panama Canal every day. They are 50%  container ships but the daily quota usually includes one carrying liquified natural gas (LNG).

The daily activity adds up to 6,497 Neopanamax vessels in the three years since the new locks began operations.

It took 10 years to develop the project since the referendum was held in 2006 until it was inaugurated on June 26, 2016. In 2009 it was awarded the largest contract of the entire expansion project that included the design and construction of the third set of locks, awarded to the United for the Canal Group, with which there is currently litigation in arbitration for alleged cost overruns.

The expanded Panama Canal has also reaffirmed the role of the interoceanic highway as a greenway for global maritime trade by offering greater capacity and fewer freight movements.

As a result, the Neopanamax locks have achieved a reduction of more than 55 million tons of CO2 since its inauguration.

In combination with the Panamax locks during the same period, more than 75 million tons of CO2 were reduced, which is equivalent to the capture generated by more than 150,000 thousand hectares of forests, says the Panama Canal Authority.



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UN and Canal authority  sign climate change  action accord


C.LIMATE change threatens Canal operarions

Posted 27/07/2019

With climate change threatening the  water  supply of the inter-ocean  channel, The UN Environment agency and the  Panama Canal Authority (ACP) have signed agreement to accelerate their efforts against climate change,

"We will work to protect the environment and promote climate change mitigation and adaptation of programs that guarantee the supply of water," said ACP Administrator Jorge Quijano, on Friday, July 26

The agreement signed by Quijano and the regional director of UN Environment for Latin America and the Caribbean, Leo Heileman, contemplates the exchange of experiences and knowledge, the development of research and programs of joint interest, and the training of the human resources of each institution.

The ACP said that the alteration of rainfall patterns and climate change constitutes one of the main threats to the Canal basins, which supply more than two million people in addition to being responsible for the generation of energy and the operations of the route..



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