The Panama Canal reached a new milestone on Monday, October 1, after four liquefied natural gas (LNG) ships transited through the Neopanamax Locks in a single day.
The transits breaks the record set on April 17, 2018, when three LNG vessels transited through the waterway on the same day.
The four LNG carriers with beams of up to 160 feet (49 meters) that crossed the locks were Ribera del Duero Knutsen with a cargo capacity of 173,000 m3 and Maran Gas Pericles with cargo capacity of 174,000 m3 which transited northbound, while Torben Spirit with a cargo capacity of 174,000 m3 and Oceanic Breeze with a cargo capacity of 155,300 m3 transited southbound.
As a result of experience acquired from the transit of more than 4,200 Neopanamax vessels, the Panama Canal has changed its Transit Reservation System to offer two slots per day to LNG vessels.
The aim is to boost the canal’s efficiency and curb unused reservations, especially in the LNG sector, by tailoring the reservation process, and removing cancellation fees for booked slots for LNG carriers.
The modifications also allow for the lifting certain daylight restrictions for LNG vessels, as well as meetings between LNG vessels in opposite directions in Gatun Lake.
“The transit of these four LNG ships in just one day demonstrates the Panama Canal’s commitment to maximizing the efficiency, flexibility and reliability of its service to all customers,” said Panama Canal Administrator Jorge L. Quijano.
The modifications are aimed at reinforcing the Panama Canal’s capacity to handle the growing LNG transit demand coming from the United States once the different export terminals begin operation.
Two LNG projects, Sabine Pass in Louisiana and Cove Point in Maryland, have come online since 2016, with four more projects scheduled to start operation shortly: Elba Island LNG in Georgia and Cameron LNG in Louisiana in 2018, followed by Freeport LNG and Corpus Christi LNG in Texas in 2019. This will bring the U.S. export capacity to 9.6 Bcf/d by the end of 2019, data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows.