Panama held an official inauguration ceremony with a host of dignitaries on hand for the newly expanded Panama Canal yesterday.
Containership Cosco Shipping Panama, renamed for the big occasion, became the first vessel to go through the new canal.
Construction on the new lane for the canal, which runs for 77km, began in 2007 and was due to finish in 2014. But strikes and disputes over costs delayed the $5.2bn project.
The extension of the canal will double the waterway’s capacity and allow the passage of larger vessels, from the panamax vessels that carry up to 5,000 teu to the new so-called neopanamax vessels with a capacity of up to 14,000 teu.
According to statistics from Clarkson, 79% of the dwt tonnage in the world fleet will be able to pass through the new locks on the basis of the new panamax dimensions, compared to 45% of the world’s tonnage which was capable of transiting the old locks.
“The expanded canal is expected to lead to significant changes in containership deployment, in particular on the transpacific trade lanes,” Clarksons Research said in a note.
“The opening of the new locks is generally thought likely to have an important impact on the gas, both LNG and LPG, and car carrier sectors. With the new locks, the largest LPG vessels, known as VLGCs and sized around 80,000 cbm, will be able to transit. The majority of LNG vessels, sized up to 200,000 cbm, will be able to transit the new locks compared to only a small number of vessels, typically sized below 50,000 cbm, that are able to transit the old locks. This is expected to lead to an increase in LNG vessels transiting the canal, typically with exports from the US,” Clarksons Research added.
Earlier this month, Jorge Quijano, the administrator of the Panama Canal Authority, told this site the expansion was: “A major step in reasserting our presence.”
“Demand will dictate when we build the next set of locks,” the veteran canal man told Splash.