WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — The Panama Canal set a new record for total cargo volume — 322 million tonnes — in fiscal 2011, outstripping 2010’s volume by 7.1% and breaking the previous record, set in 2007, by 2.9%, the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) said on Oct. 27.

A transportation study by the United Soybean Board (USB) projects that the total volume of soybean and grain traffic through the canal will increase by 30% when the canal opens a third lane of locks in 2014. This new larger, shipping lane will expand the average area for barge transport from 70 to over 150 miles. And assuming the ports will dredge to ensure passage of larger ships, the expansion is expected to save about 35¢ cents per bushel on transportation costs for elevators within range of the central Gulf of Mexico ports.

The canal’s increased capacity will also allow a Panama ship originating in southern Louisiana to load an additional 13,300 tonnes (524,000 bushels) of corn per trip, increasing each shipment’s value by about $3.4 million.

The USB analysis indicates the total volume of grain and soybeans transiting the Panama Canal will increase 30% (426 million bushels) by 2020-21.

The U.S. Grains Council will host its annual meeting in Panama City, Panama, Feb. 13-15, 2012.