SAFETY4SEA: If you had to pinpoint one defining challenge for green and sustainable shipping over the next 10 years, what would it be?

Alexis Rodriguez: One of the major challenges for green and sustainable shipping will be the way the maritime industry adopts their own environmental mitigation targets in accordance with the initial IMO GHG emissions reduction strategy.

Everyone in the shipping industry is working to advance their green and sustainable achievements. However, in the next few years, all of that effort needs to be measured, identified, quantified and accounted for, to collate the global maritime industry’s effort as a whole. The Panama Canal is addressing this challenge with our ongoing commitment to protecting the environment and helping the shipping industry mitigate their operational environmental impact. Our measures reviewed by various studies analyzing early environmental mitigation tactics. These insights demonstrate the Canal’s continued dedication to aiding the maritime shipping industry’s global environmental efforts.


S4S: Last October, the Panama Canal launched a new tool to calculate carbon emissions. Have you noticed any significant progress since its introduction?

A.R.: Since the Emissions Calculator’s launch last fall, we have seen a remarkably positive impact on our customers’ emissions reductions efforts. As demonstrated by the CO2 Emissions Reduction chart, which uses Calculator data to reflect customers by emissions reductions, our customers have taken significant steps each month to reduce their carbon footprint. This progress has largely been due to an increase in Neopanamax transits, which take advantage of the shorter traveling distance and larger cargo carrying capacity that the Expanded Canal offers. In addition, we have been presenting the Calculator, its methodology, procedures and benefits to our customers in several international forums.

The Canal aims to encourage customers to adopt more sustainable itineraries and reduce their carbon footprints

S4S: What kind of data does the tool take into consideration to provide the most accurate measurement?

A.R.: The Emissions Calculator incorporates an array of data, including vessel type, speed, distance, route, size, capacity, average fuel consumption, routes comparison and cargo type into proprietary algorithms to calculate the potential emissions that could be created based on route and speed. Given rising regulations and our customers’ excellent operational practices (i.e. slow steaming, etc.), the Calculator also has taken more efficiency and operational considerations into account to give us more accurate calculations, not only based on competitiveness, but also CO2 calculations. These findings provide the most accurate measurement to-date of GHG emissions and determine the total emissions saved by choosing the Panama Canal route, in comparison with other feasible routes.


S4S: What are the rewards for those with the fewest emissions? 

A.R.: While the Emissions Calculator and CO2 Emissions Reduction Ranking are not linked to any direct incentives, they bolster our existing offerings for customers to demonstrate strong environmental stewardship. This largely includes our Green Connection Environmental Recognition Program, which rewards customers who demonstrate excellent environmental stewardship with the opportunity to improve their position within the Customer Ranking System, which is considered when booking transits through the Panama Canal. Our Green Connection Award also recognizes customers who comply with the highest environmental performance standards set by the IMO.


S4S: What is your advice to ship operators to enhance their environmental performance of their vessels and rank high on Panama’s CO2 Emissions Reduction Ranking?

A.R.:  To boost CO2 emissions reductions and improve standing on the Panama’s CO2 Emissions Reduction Ranking, customers can prioritize transiting the Panama Canal over alternative routes or use bigger, more efficient vessels to cut down on the number of trips needed to transit the same amount of cargo. We are working on more improvements, taking into account that the IMO MEPC’s new strategy in the short-term will consider ways to include sustainable port developments and additional activities to reduce GHG emissions across the shipping industry.


S4S: How does the Emissions Calculator differ from other emissions reductions tools?

A.R.: The Emissions Calculator is unique in that, as it not only calculates emissions reductions per customer, but also provides the most accurate measurement of emissions saved by using the Panama Canal, in comparison to other alternative, feasible routes. Using this first of its kind tool, the Canal aims to encourage customers to adopt more sustainable itineraries and reduce their carbon footprints.  Given the Panama Canal is not only committed to helping customers reduce their environmental impact, the waterway has employed this tool to inform its own decision-making and the steps it takes to reduce its own carbon footprint.


S4S: Are they any further plans/ initiatives/ tools that the Panama Canal has in store for reducing CO2 and GHG emissions from shipping?

A.R.: We are continually looking to invest in new innovative and environmentally friendly technologies to ensure the Panama Canal remains competitive, sustainable and reliable. With regard to upcoming sustainable efforts, we hope to expand upon the Green Connection program – recently recognized as a landmark program in reducing emissions by the International Transport Forum – in the coming years. Additionally, as we continue to use the Emissions Calculator to measure and reduce our own carbon footprint, we hope to develop a low carbon strategy and pursue a roadmap to become a “Carbon Neutral” entity.



S4S: What is Panama Canal’s wish list for the industry and/or regulators and all parties involved towards sustainable shipping?

‘’IMO’s initial strategy adopted in MEPC72 will be under review, so the work doesn’t end here; this is just the beginning.”

A.R.: At this stage we have the IMO GHG emissions reduction initial strategy which, from my point of view, gives the industry a lot of homework for the next five years until 2023, when the next strategy will be adopted.  After MEPC 72, the industry has collective objectives, a vision, levels of ambition and a long list of “non-exhaustive” list of potential additional measures to reduce GHG emissions in the initial strategy. I think that is a moment to identify our actions and decisions and change the industry’s business as usual, identifying ourselves which of the measures we can add value to and contribute to the global efforts. The innovation, capacity building and R&D we have spearheaded at the Canal will be important to achieve all the ambitious goals set, but is important to recognize that the initial strategy will be under review, so the work doesn’t end here. This is just the beginning.


The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and not necessarily those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only


Alexis Rodriguez is  the Panama Canal’s Environmental Protection Specialist. The Panama Canal is run by an autonomous agency of the Government of Panama in charge of managing, operating and maintaining the Panama Canal. The operation of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) is based on its organic law and the regulations approved by its Board of Directors.