Low consumption worldwide has negatively impacted the movement of cargo transiting through container terminals in Panama. Until July of this year, Panama Maritime Authority data shows a decrease of -5.7% in transshipment cargo handled in Panama. The breakdown by port shows that the largest differences in transshipment are located in MIT, CCT and PSA. While Panama Ports terminals of Balboa and Cristóbal show minimal growth compared to the previous year.
Around 30% of the cargo transshipped in Panama is in transit to destinations in South America. This region has suffered the greatest loss in cargo this year, with -18% of containers compared to the previous year. The countries with significant drops are Chile -26%, Colombia -27%, Peru -36%. Brazil, on the other hand, has increased the cargo by 26%. The decrease in the volume of cargo transshipment in South America is closely related to the downward trend in imports for the transshipment destination countries. Chile has reported a stunning -21.9% drop in the value of its imports during the second quarter of 2023. This decline has left its mark on essential economic sectors such as agribusiness, manufacturing and mining, as reported by Bloomberg. At the same time, Peru has also experienced a significant drop of -15.8% in its imports during the period from January to July 2023. The downward trend in transshipment is not limited to South American countries. Transshipments to destinations in Europe, the Middle East and India have also seen a decline this year.
Furthermore, the maritime transport landscape in South America has undergone changes over the last year. New liner services have increased the capacity to directly serve the west coast markets of South America. This has negatively affected the volume of transshipments made in the Panama hub.
The downward trend in cargo transshipment in Panama is evident and dates back to 2022. Last year, a decrease of -2% was recorded, and this year the drop is close to -6%. In addition to the decline in regional foreign trade and changes in liner services, it is essential to pay special attention to Panama's competing ports in the region. Competition from ports in the Caribbean for transshipment cargo could reconfigure the regional landscape in the coming years.