Panama Canal Talks Gas Shipping Growth with Asian Majors

Panama Canal Authority is looking into development opportunities in the gas shipping market now that it has introduced transit for liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers.

Namely, a Panama Canal delegation has embarked on a data collection mission to Asia where it met with shipping companies and maritime organizations from Japan, South Korea, China and Taiwan.

According to the canal authority, Asian stakeholders are a primary driver of traffic through the canal.

The Asian tour is said to be aimed at gathering information needed for future planning of the canal’s development and making projections for various shipping segments. To that end, a particular spotlight has been put on the shipping needs for natural gas, which is a new addition to the expanded canal, as considerable meetings were held with gas shipping majors.

In July 2016, the canal welcomed its first-ever LNG carrier, the Shell-chartered Maran Gas Apollonia, through the expanded locks.

The expanded canal can accommodate 90 percent of the world’s LNG tankers, allowing ships departing the U.S. East and Gulf Coast for Asia to cut voyage times to 22.8 days roundtrip.

The delegation, comprised of Administrator Jorge L. Quijano and a Planning and Commercial Development team, met with representatives of Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, to discuss Japan’s energy policies and the country’s interest in importing natural gas and propane from the Gulf of Mexico.

The delegation also spoke with shipping industry executives from several shipping companies including Mitsui O.S.K. Line (MOL), Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK), Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, Ltd. (K Line), along with those specializing in shipping of gas such as Astomos, Tokyo Gas.

In South Korea, the representatives visited Korea Gas Corporation (KOGAS)—an importer of liquefied natural gas (LNG)—and SK Gas—an importer of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). They also visited the shipyard of Samsung in Geoje, South Korea, to view the construction of Neopanamax LNG vessels and met with representatives of Hyundai Merchant Marine and PanOcean.

Furthermore, the Panama Canal delegation spoke with COSCO Shipping Lines, representatives of the shipping companies Yang Ming and Evergreen to analyze aspects of the maritime industry and the service provided by the Panama Canal.

“I’m very enthusiastic about the productive meetings that took place with various maritime organizations and Canal customers in a very important region to the global shipping industry,” said Quijano.

“The Canal connects 144 maritime routes, reaching 1,700 ports in 160 countries, and in order for us to continue delivering exceptional service, we must maintain an open dialogue with our customers and with leading industry experts.”

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