Liquefied natural gas (LNG) vessels have found a new shortcut through the Expanded Panama Canal and now represent about 9 percent of transits through the new locks.
LNG ships, which have an average canal water time 20.5 hours, including waiting and transit times, have one guaranteed reservation slot every day for transit through the expanded waterway.
“The industry has more than 50 years of success transporting LNG cargo in ships that meet the industry’s highest standards, and transits through the Panama Canal are not an exception,” the Panama Canal said.
Earlier in 2017, the Panama Canal Administrator, Jorge L. Quijano, informed that the canal expects to nearly double LNG carrier transits through the waterway by 2020 driven by US exports of natural gas.
“For the first time in canal history, we are handling LNG vessels that were unable to fit our Panamax-size locks. The shale revolution in the United States not only has produced a quantum leap in terms of technology and volumes, but has also become a catalyst for the development and rapid evolution of a growing spot market, swaps and short-term contracts that were unthinkable a few years ago,” Quijano added.
Following the inauguration of the expanded locks last year, the canal welcomed its first-ever LNG carrier, the Shell-chartered Maran Gas Apollonia, in July 2016.
The expanded canal can accommodate 90 percent of the world’s LNG carriers, allowing ships departing the US East and Gulf Coast for Asia to cut voyage times to 22.8 days roundtrip.
Based on the canal authority’s figures, the LNG segment has been surpassing the canal’s original expectations of one transit per week, and on average, 5.2 LNG vessels have transited the canal per week.
World Maritime News Staff