Photo: Panama Canal

Ships transiting Panama Canal save 16 million tons of CO2 in 2021

The Panama Canal contributed to the reduction of 16 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent emissions in 2021, in comparison to the most likely alternative routes.

Source: Panama Canal

These savings are equivalent to the amount produced by 3.2 million passenger vehicles driven in one year, or the carbon sequestered by 248 million tree seedlings grown for 10 years.

Vessels transiting the waterway saved 3 million tons more than in 2020 when the Panama Canal contributed to a reduction of more than 13 million CO2 equivalent emissions.

The annual data was calculated by the Panama Canal’s CO2 Emissions Savings Dashboard, which tracks the total CO2 emissions that vessels save by sailing via the Panama Canal rather than the most likely alternative route.

“Last year, we launched the CO2 Emissions Dashboard to help our customers better track their emissions and understand the benefits provided by taking the shortest route, creating a more sustainable supply chain,” Ricaurte Vásquez Morales, Panama Canal Administrator, said.

“Throughout the year, the Dashboard has provided visibility to customers and stakeholders of the CO2 emission savings generated by choosing the Panama Canal route, as we move forward with initiatives to become carbon neutral.”

Containerships led the way in emissions savings of 5.2 million tons of CO2, followed by dry bulk carriers (2.5 million), chemical tankers (1.77 million), and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) carriers (1.2 million).

Source: Panama Canal

The customers that registered the highest CO2 emission savings by choosing the canal route throughout 2021 were Maersk (933,308 tons of CO2), Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) (909,264 tons of CO2), CMA CGM (503,960 tons of CO2), Hapag-Lloyd (478,764 tons of CO2), and Trafigura Beheer B.V. (448,940 tons of CO2).

The waterway has introduced a series of environmental incentives and tools since 2016 through its central sustainability program, the Green Connection Environmental Recognition Program. In addition, the Panama Canal promotes the implementation of speed and navigational recommendations to protect cetaceans as they start their nearby seasonal migration and works closely with the communities of the Watershed to sustainably manage their surrounding environment.

The Panama Canal as a green corridor for maritime trade

Last year, the waterway unveiled its plan to become carbon neutral by 2030. To achieve this objective and maximize its value as a green corridor for global shipping, the waterway expects to make significant investments and changes to its operations over the coming years.

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Beginning with purchasing electric vehicles and hybrid tugboats, modernizing its equipment and infrastructure alone is anticipated to require $2.4 billion.

The Panama Canal said it will also continue working with international stakeholders to ensure the canal’s contributions are aligned with global decarbonization efforts.

In November 2021, the Panama Canal participated in UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), emphasizing the importance of involving the entire supply chain in maritime shipping’s goals of carbon neutrality. The canal also joined forces with over 150 other organizations across the maritime industry to sign the Call to Action for Shipping Decarbonization, a pledge and commitment to taking concrete action against a warming climate.

In the future, the canal aims to take into consideration in its pricing structure the vessels’ emissions during their transits through the waterway, based on the ships’ technology and maneuverability, to further aid the decarbonization of the shipping industry.

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