The Panama Canal has marked the 1000th Neopanamax vessel to use the waterway since the inauguration of the Expanded Canal less than nine months ago.
On Sunday, March 19, Mediterranean Shipping Company’s containership MSC Anzu made the milestone transit heading northbound from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean as part of a new service linking Europe, the United States, and the west coast South America.
The 1000th transit is a significant milestone for the Expanded Canal, which has been experiencing a steady flow of traffic since its inauguration in June 2016. As of March 2017, the average number of Neopanamax vessels transiting the new lane per day is 5.9, says the Panama Canal Authority (ACP).
Inaugural Transit: Cosco Shipping Panama
The MV COSCO Shipping Panama inaugurated the Expanded Canal when it transited the new Neopanamax locks on June 26, 2016 in front of thousands of spectators.
Since its opening, the Expanded Canal has welcomed vessels across segments like containerships, liquid petroleum gas (LPG) vessels, and liquefied natural gas (LNG) vessels – a newcomer to the waterway. Other segments like dry bulk carriers, vehicle carriers, and crude product tankers have also made use of the Expanded Canal.
First LPG Carrier: Lycaste Peace
On its first day of commercial operations on June 27, 2016, the LPG tanker Lycaste Peace, owned by Japanese shipping company Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK Line), became the first vessel to pass through the Expanded Canal following the inaugural transit. The Lycaste Peace was followed shortly by the LPG tanker Passat, which transited the Expanded Canal later that same day.
Highest Toll Paid: MOL Benefactor/$829,468*
With the higher capacity of the Expanded Canal, it was to be expected that the waterway would shatter all sorts of cargo volume records. Included in this is the record for the highest toll paid – a whopping $829,468!
The record toll was paid by the Mitsui O.S.K. Lines-operated MOL Benefactor for a northbound transit of the canal on July 1, 2016. The 1o,000 TEU vessel was actually the first Neopanamax containership to use the new locks since the inauguration, so there is a possibility that that record no longer stands. I wonder when we will see the first million dollar transit of the Panama Canal, that is if it hasn’t already happened.
First LNG Carrier: Maran Gas Apollonia
LNG carriers began transiting the waterway last July for the first time after the Canal opened trade possibilities for the segment. So far, 5.2 LNG carriers have transited the Canal per week on average, above the original forecast of one weekly transit, according to the ACP.
The LNG carrier Maran Gas Apollonia became the first LNG carrier to ever use the Panama Canal on July 27, 2016. The transit was heralded a ‘new era’ for LNG shipping.
First Crude Tanker: Aegean Unity
The first crude oil tanker to transit the Expanded Canal was the suezmax tanker Aegean Unity, which made the transit on August 18, 2016.
Largest Car Carrier: Höegh Target
The world’s largest Pure Car and Truck Carrier (PCTC), Höegh Target, used the Expanded Canal for the first time on September 8, 2016. The 8,500 CEU (Car Equivalent Units) vessel measures 199.9 meters in length and 36.5 meters in beam.
First Bulk Carrier: Carouge
Also in September, the capesize bulk carrier MV Carouge, belonging to MSC, became the first bulk carrier to transit the Expanded Canal during a southbound transit on its voyage from the port of Carbonera Muelle, Colombia to the South Pacific.
500th Transit: YM Unity
The Panama Canal marked the milestone 500th transit through the Expanded Canal on Decmember 14, 2016 with the transit of the 8,500 TEU containership YM Unity, which measures 335.7 meters long and is 42.8 meters in beam.
Largest Containership: Valparaiso Express
In December, the 10,589 TEU neopanamax containership Valparaiso Express became the largest ship to use the waterway. The containership measures 333 meters in length and is 48 meters in beam. It is the first of five new vessels in Hapag Lloyd’s new 10,500 TEU class, which are being built to take advantage of the additional capacity that the expanded Panama Canal offers.
The ACP notes that the principle source of traffic, the container segment, has accounted for nearly half the transits through the Expanded Canal since its inauguration. Moreover, 53% of containership cargo transiting the waterway now does so using the Expanded Canal.
1000th Transit: MSC Anzu
The containership MSC Anzu became the 1000th Neopanamax vessel to use Expanded Canal on Sunday, March 19, 2017. The containership is part of the SAWC-USA-NWC service between Europe, the United States, and the west coast of South America. The service was consolidated last year to take advantage of the Expanded Panama Canal.
Built in 2015, the Panama-flagged MSC Anzu measures 299.98 meters in length and 48.23 meters in beam with a carrying capacity of 9,008 TEUs.
First Cruise Ship: TBD
The Expanded Canal is expected to continue to achieve milestones with the transit of the first Neopanamax cruise ship scheduled for April 2017. Neopanamax cruise ships are said to be capable of transporting up to 4,000 passengers – nearly twice as much as the Panamax cruise ships able to transit the original locks.
Traffic at the waterway continues to increase with each passing month, as does the Canal’s impact. In February 2017, the Panama Canal set a new daily tonnage record of 1.18 million Panama Canal tons (PC/UMS) after welcoming a total of 1,180 vessels through both the Expanded and original locks. The previous records were established in December 2016 and January 2017, when the waterway set monthly tonnage records for transiting 35.4 million PC/UMS and 36.1 million PC/UMS, respectively.
Many major liner services have already redirected service to the waterway to take advantage of the economies of scale the waterway provides. So far at least 13 Neopanamax liner services have been deployed through the new locks, primarily on the U.S. East Coast to Asia trade route, according to the ACP. And on April 1, two additional Neopanamax liner services are expected to follow, bringing the total liner services to 15, says the ACP.
Ports around the world, in particular along the U.S. East Coast, have already expanded or are in the process of deepening and widening their channels to accommodate the influx of Neopanamax vessel traffic due to the Expanded Canal. Many of these ports have already witnessed record tonnage months, including the Ports of Charleston, Philadelphia and Savannah, which experienced record container volume growths in January of this year.
“As we look ahead, the future of the Panama Canal is as bright as ever,” said Panama Canal Administrator Jorge L. Quijano. “Although the Expansion was our largest undertaking since the original Canal was constructed, this is merely the first step in bolstering the capabilities of the waterway and the logistics offerings in the country, for our customers and the people of Panama.”