News / 18 February 2011

Atradius DSB considers support for expansion Panama canal

The official Dutch export credit agency Atradius DSB in November 2010 announced to consider support for the expansion of the Panama canal. According to the local Gatún Lake Defense Committee the project in its current shape will not only be uneconomic, but also very harmful to the environment. Recently Both ENDS informed Atradius DSB of these concerns. The ECA is currently assessing the significance of these concerns for its eventual decision to issue an insurance policy.


Every year, around 14.000 ships pass through the Panama canal, which has only a limited capacity. The decision to expand has therefore already been made, and preparations have begun. Since the Panama canal flows through a mountainous area, ships have to be lifted up and brought down again, using a series of locks.


The locks that are to be used in the current expansion plans are outdated and will use excessive amounts of fresh water. Mr. Bert Sheldon, an engineer affiliated with the Gatún Lake Defense Committee, points this out in his recent report on the subject. The water will be pumped out of the Gatún lake which covers the northern part of the canal. Due to this, the lake will suffer from siltation and flora and fauna will be seriously affected. Fishermen communities at the lake will be deprived of their livelihoods and forced to move elsewhere.

Sheldon confirms that the expansion of the Panama canal may be necessary to respond to intensified shipping. He and his organization advocate alternative expansion plans for the canal using more efficient lock systems. These would be better for the natural environment, and also be cheaper to operate. The future of the Gatún lake would thus be secured, while the capacity and benefits of the canal would be enhanced.

Photo: Gaif548

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