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Panama Canal aims for carbon neutrality by 2030

26 April 2021

The Panama Canal Authority has begun the process of decarbonizing its operations with the goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2030, its operator said 26 April.

"This is a fundamental strategy for the waterway's long-term operation and sustainability," Administrator Ricaurte Vasquez Morales said in a press statement. "This process will build on our long-standing efforts to minimize our environmental impact."

To kick off the transition to a greener canal, the authority has purchased four electric vehicles for a pilot program that will collect data to inform the migration of its entire fleet away from fossil fuel dependence.

The canal authority's plan also includes the deployment of tugboats that use alternative fuels, switching to renewable energy, and ensuring that all facilities and projects are environmentally responsible and sustainable, it said.

The Panama Canal first began tracking its carbon footprint in 2013. In 2017, its plans were bolstered with the launch of an emissions calculator. The tool not only allows shipping lines to measure their GHG emissions per route, but also strengthens the canal's analysis of the emissions produced by its own operations, the authority said.

In 2020, ships reduced their emissions by more than 13 million mt of CO2-equivalent by transiting the canal, the authority said. Vessels sailing between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans can avoid about 9,000 miles by taking the 51-mile canal, instead of traveling around the southern tip of South America.

Among the ships that traverse the canal are LNG tankers, Neopanamax-class vessels that are the largest that can move through the canal, and it is the primary route for US Gulf Coast LNG exports to reach Asia. In February 2021, the authority reported a record 58 LNG tankers transited the canal.

Reporting by Abdul Latheef, OPIS.

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