WATCH: Expanded Panama Canal Commemorates Two Year Anniversary
The Panama Canal earlier this week marked the two-year anniversary of the inauguration of its canal expansion, the largest enhancement project in the waterway’s 103-year history. To date, the canal has transited 3,745 neopanamax vessels, traffic that confirms the route’s efficiency and the maritime industry’s confidence in the expanded canal.
The performance of the expanded canal’s neopanamax locks continues to exceed expectations. The route set a new monthly tonnage record of 38.1 million tons in May 2018, the third such time the waterway has set a monthly tonnage record in the past two years. The transit of the Canal’s largest cruise ship to date, the Norwegian Bliss, weighed more than 168,000 gross tons and carrying nearly 5,000 passengers. The largest capacity container vessel to-date was the CMA CGM Theodore Roosevelt, with a total TEU allowance of 14,863.
“Two years ago, we pledged to usher in a new era for world commerce,” said Panama Canal Administrator Jorge L. Quijano. “Today, as we reflect upon our countless achievements and ever-expanding impact, we proudly reaffirm this commitment to the global maritime community.”
Increased experience with the neopanamax locks and continued investment into its operations have allowed the waterway to provide additional capacity, flexibility and efficiency to shippers. Recent offerings include two additional reservation slots for the neopanamax locks, bringing the total number of slots from six to eight, and giving shippers greater flexibility and options for booking their desired transit dates. The neopanamax locks have an increase in maximum allowable beam for vessels transiting, accommodating larger vessels and greater tonnage. There has also been an increase in the maximum allowable draft for transiting the neopanamax locks to 47 feet.
The impact of the neopanamax locks is demonstrated across all segments, though perhaps in no segment more than liquefied natural gas, which has emerged as the waterway’s fastest growing. In the past two years, the expanded canal has seen a total of 358 LNG transits, with the transit of three LNG vessels in one day in April 2018. The canal offers one of the eight neopanamax reservation slots per day to LNG shippers, but has transited two LNG vessels in one day on 14 occasions.
The canal’s LNG traffic is expected to grow by 50 percent by the end of fiscal year 2018 over the year before, to 244 transits.
With this anniversary, the canal also reaffirms its commitment to environmental sustainability, prioritizing water savings and reducing our carbon footprint. In the two years of the neopanamax locks’ operations, the waterway has recycled 60 percent of the water used per transit and is on track to reduce an estimated 160 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the next 10 years.