The Panama Canal welcomed the inaugural transit of the LNG Sakura as it carried the first-ever liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipment from the Dominion Cove Point terminal in the United States to Japan.
The transit, which occurred this past weekend, marks the beginning of a new LNG commercial route between the United States and Asia from the recently inaugurated Dominion Cove Point terminal in Maryland, the second U.S. LNG export terminal to come online after Sabine Pass began operations in 2016.
Dominion Cove Point has two main clients: ST Cove Point, a consortium consisting of Sumitomo Corporation and Tokyo Gas; and Gail Global LNG, a subsidiary of GAIL LTD of India. The LNG Sakura carried the first shipment of the 0.8 million tons of LNG contracted per year by the Japanese energy company Kansai Electric.
The Bahamas-flagged LNG Sakura is a Neopanamax vessel, measuring 300 meters in length and 49 meters in beam. The vessel, jointly owned by NYK and Kansai Electric, was named in December 2017.
It is the first vessel to be co-owned by KEPCO, which is the majority owner of the vessel with 70 percent stake, and NYK, which holds 30 pct ownership in the ship.
The ship has secured a 20-year charter contract to transport LNG sourced from shale gas fields in North America and various other locations.
The Bahamas-flagged ship features a moss-type tank, which is the largest in the industry, having a capacity of about 177,000 m3.
LNG Sakura started its transit on April 28 in the Agua Clara locks on Panama’s Atlantic side and headed towards the Cocolí locks in the Pacific.
The Panama Canal currently provides seven booking slots to LNG shippers per week. However, when demand requires it can transit more LNG vessels on a daily basis. On April 17, for example, the canal transited three LNG vessels in one day, representing a first for the waterway.
In FY 2018, the canal’s LNG traffic is expected to grow by 50 percent year-on-year, increasing from 163 to approximately 244 transits.
Image and Video Courtesy: Panama Canal Authority