Last week Friday, December 4th 2020, we hosted our maiden webinar for the Central American region with a maritime challenges session focused on the Panama ecosystem. You can watch the full recording here.

The session was organized together with the embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Panama, the Cámara Marítima de Panamá and the Ciudad del Saber aka City of Knowledge Foundation.

The small transcontinental country of Panama that is divided among the Central and South American continents is home to the Panama canal, the shortcut between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Completed in 1914, it is one of the largest and most difficult projects ever undertaken by mankind. The shortcut is a key route for shipping, as it drastically reduces travel time between the oceans, with no need to circumnavigate South America through Cape Horn or the strait of Magellan or North America through the Northwest passage and Bering strait. The canal has since been expanded, with the latest works completed in 2016 and able to handle vessels with up to 14,000 TEU.

Such a strategic location and important port on the global stage comes with its own set of challenges, which we explored during the session, which was introduced by the ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Panama, Ilse Smits.

She opened with a passionate call to action and cooperation. “We need to start changing the game right now and we need to innovate. This requires partnership, between countries like Panama and the Netherlands, but also between different stakeholders within the maritime ecosystems such as the big corporates and start-ups, to work towards a maritime future together with:

– smart and zero-emission shipping

– green, vibrant and connected port cities around the world

– a sustainable blue economy with clean and productive oceans

– and act as green gateway to Europe for the Netherlands and a green gateway to the Americas for Panama

But time is not on our side; Maritime projects require huge capital investments with long return periods. The decisions we make today will have a huge impact on tomorrow. So again, the maritime future is now! We can be the game changers of the sustainable blue economy. Let’s start shaping it together today and connect challenges in the maritime sector to innovative solutions from start-ups.”

The session then continued with contribitions from Maersk’s Robbert van Trooijen, Senior Vice President Latin America and the Caribbean, and the director of Port of Rotterdam International, Rene van der Plas. The key points were centred on the importance of innovation and accelerators for meeting the challenges of today of energy transition and digitalisation and on the situation in Latin America.

The continent is going through quite the tumultuous situation, according to Robbert, with the pandemic dropping imports by 25% while the exports are going strongly, creating an imbalance in trade and transport, leading to shortages of airplanes, ships and other means of transporting goods. The pandemic has also cause an acceleration in the growth and development of e-commerce, which naturally adds further stress to the logistics network.

“Customer needs are changing faster than before due to COVID, which reminds us of the importance of timely and accurate information through the digitalisation of the information flow in blockchain solutions like Tradelens. Our ability to adapt to sudden changes in customer needs is crucial for logistics service providers like A.P.Møller Maersk” – Robbert van Trooijen

Snapshot of the webinar

The challenges

Presented at the session were three challenges by three different speakers.

1) Swells/shock waves due to tidal differences in Panama waters pose challenges for companies active in bunkering and shipping activities. Introduced by Carls Von Lindeman, Commercial Manager at Vopak Panama.

2) Availability and traceability of marine products, consumables, (floating) equipment and service products. Introduced by Rene Gomez (on behalf of Cámara Marítima de Panamá), General Manager at Commercial Diving.

3) Data analysis emissions in relation to environmental protection in Panama waters (migration of whales). Introduced by Alexis Rodriguez, Panama Canal’s Environmental Protection Specialist.

You can find the challenges on our Port Innovation Atlas page. If you have a solution do not hesitate to contact us at!