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Container transshipment in Panama: flows and products


Grúa izando contenedor
2.6M TEUs transited through ports in Panama during 2021 | Shark Optimization

The cities of Panama and Colón have served international trade since colonial times. In colonial times, precious metals from Peru transited the isthmus as part of their journey to Spain. In the 1940s, the Colon Free Zone was conceived as a connection center between the industries of the United States and Europe with the consumers of Latin America.


Today, millions of containers are unloaded at the ports of Panama and loaded once again to connect with their final destination. These transshipment containers reached the figure of 2.6 million TEUs last year*.


The flow of containers through Panamanian ports reflects the dynamics of international trade. Panama's port system is the gateway for imports into South America from North America, East Asia and Europe. At the same time, it facilitates the exports of industries in South America to countries of North America and Europe.


Diagrama Sankey de transbordo por Panamá
Transshipment flows between regions| Shark Optimization

What type of products are transshipped through Panama?

The ports receive all kinds of products in containers, however we have observed certain trends in products depending on the regions of origin and destination.


Imports from North America to the south of the continent are concentrated in inputs for production with a variety of polymers, resins and other raw materials. Meanwhile, imports from East Asia to South America are focused on finished products, such as air conditioners, tires, vehicle parts and parts for electronic products.


In the flow from South America to North America, products derived from wood (lumber, fiberboards, plywood), fresh products (grapes, bananas and other fruits), and of course, wine.


South America is a major supplier of fresh produce to Europe. More than 75,000 TEUs with bananas transited through the ports of the isthmus last year. Other items with high volume are seafood and shellfish, coffee and other fruits.


The ports that operate in the cities of Panama and Colon are an important node in the supply chains for companies globally. Maritime connections and port infrastructure facilitate the trade of fresh produce, raw materials, and household appliances between hundreds of countries.


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* The 2.6M TEUs number corresponds to containers unloaded in Panama with final destination different than Panama. Each transshipment container is counted as 2 moves (unload-load) in the container moves statistics of the port's system.


The data to which SHARK OPTIMIZATION has access is public information, for the purposes of Law 81 of 2019 (“On Protection of Personal Data”).

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