Panama Canal Authority administrator Jorge Quijano has no intention just yet of expanding the waterway further to handle the latest generation of giant boxships.
When asked at the Danish Maritime Forum today if there were any intentions to expand the canal to allow for 20,000 teu ships, Quijano replied: “No plans immediately.”
The canal, which has suffered repeated delays, should open around the middle of next year. Quijano said initially the canal would then handle ships of up to 12,000 teu while pilots got used to the new infrastructure before moving to its designed handling capacity of 14,000 teu.
A rival canal planned in nearby Nicaragua should be able to handle the latest containership sizes when and if it gets built.
Quijano maintained that even including today’s orderbook by 2018 fully 97% of the global container fleet would be able to transit the canal.
The authorities have designed the expansion in such a way that further expansion should be easy, Quijano said. The new locks have been built in such a way that larger locks could be built alongside them should the need arise.
Quijano mused on how large boxships might go with some people, he said, suggesting they might go up to 25,000 teu in capacity, while others are pointing to similarities with the ULCC tanker craze of the 1970s, which peaked with the oil crisis and has since tapered back down to VLCCs. He said he hoped a similar tapering off in ship size would happen in the container trades.
The authority has just closed its financial year in which it handled a record volume of nearly 340m tons.
Looking to next year, Quijano said he was looking forward to welcoming a brand new cargo to the canal with a swathe of LNG cargoes due to head from the US east coast to Asia.
The Danish Maritime Forum continues through to tomorrow.