Threats For Panama Canal Increasing

After it is obvious now for several years that the importance of the Panama Canal will heavily decrease in the future due to an increasing number of transportation alternatives, in August of this year, the first Chinese cargo vessel set out to traverse through Arctic waters that, in comparison with the classical Suez route, cut about 2 weeks of transportation time between Asia and Europe.

Although, initially only talking about the Suez Canal, the dramatic development of the Arctic ice equally affects the American brother, the Panama Canal. Until today, operators of the sea routes in northern Russia and Canada insure the patency by nuclear-powered icebreakers in conjunction with a reinforced hull of cargo ships. But lately a new navigation technology appeared which is meant to replace this classical method within the next few years, permitting ships in the near future to safely converse the northern routes without reinforced hulls.

In cooperation with the U.S. Navy, the U.S. defense contractor Raytheon developed a navigation software, which makes safe navigation in partially frozen waters possible, without artificially generated fairways. The so-called Raytheon Arctic Monitoring and Prediction (RAMP) is a complex software system that calculates an ice-free and therefore safe navigation route in real time from up to 200 different sources of data. That is, in addition to the satellite data, data from icebreakers patrolling and weather forecasts, live data from ship's sensors and even scout drones both above and under water.

By doing this, the system solves the problem that ice sheets and smaller icebergs are found in areas marked as 'ice-free' which normally would endanger a safe passage. Analysts already foresee that thereby accelerating the development towards a routine use of the Arctic sea routes could lead to a transport volume of 15% of the Chinese economy exports that will be processed through the Northeast Passage up in just 7 years.

And this process does not stop at America. In combination with other transportation methods, which include water and land routes, this development will provide a massive impact on the Panama Canal and thus endanger national annual revenue through transit fees of about $2.5 Billion. For Panama, this should be the next hint that the fees derived from the Canal are not Panama`s only future.

Sources

CNN.Com
TheArcticInstitute.Org

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