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News Article

Is the Transisthmic Corridor Comparable to the Panama Canal?

By Pedro Alcalá | Tue, 01/19/2021 - 19:41

Transisthmic Corridor Project Director Rafael Marín Mollinedo reports a 20 percent progress in the modernization of the corridor’s existing rail lines, according to an interview with El Heraldo de Mexico, despite suffering delays of up to nine months in 2020 as we previously reported. According to Marín Mollinedo, the corridor’s short-term objective is to be more efficient in a per-vessel basis, but that the larger ambitions of the project are more focused on attracting companies to permanently reside in the area at one of the many industrial parks and manufacturing hubs that are expected to be settled all over the isthmus. “Fifty full cargo vessels pass through the Panama Canal each day, while our corridor will be able to process one full cargo vessel in that same amount of time at full capacity”, he said. 

The project’s aspirations are aligned with the conclusions of a CONACYT study published last year. According to El Economista, the study reported that the overall economic impact of the Transisthmic Corridor project could end up being greater than that of the Panama Canal. However, this greater impact will not be the result of merely comparing the cargo traffic capacities of both interoceanic options. A BNAmericas report from last year said that even the most optimistic development scenario demonstrates that the Transisthmic Corridor will be capable of handling at most 5 percent of the Panama Canal’s cargo volume capacity during its first year in operation. Instead, the study reported that this greater economic impact will come from the various other infrastructure developments that will be integrated into the corridor’s network. These include not only industrial parks, special manufacturing hubs, permanent facilities and installed capacity from global corporations, but also other rail and road development projects from the public sector, such as the Mayan Train, whose cargo capabilities will intersect with the Transisthmic Corridor. An Info-Transportes report from last year also highlights that the Transisthmic Corridor will be able to leverage yet another advantage over the Panama canal: it will be able to service vessels that are too large to fit into the canal.

In a T21 piece, Marín Mollinedo highlighted the history of the contest between these two passages, noting that the Transisthmic Corridor was the interoceanic option of choice before the inauguration of the canal in 1914. Ever since, many of Mexico’s presidential administrations have wanted to make the corridor compete against the Panama Canal but have failed. This is the first time that this objective is within reach. The piece also says that cargo going from Asia to the US will travel 8,000km less when crossing through the Transisthmic Corridor, when compared to the Panama Canal, resulting in fuel savings of up to US$1 million per trip.

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
MBN, El Heraldo de Mexico, El Economista, T21, BNAmericas, Info-Transportes
Photo by:   SCT
Pedro Alcalá Pedro Alcalá Journalist and Industry Analyst