China COSCO Shipping Containership to Open Expanded Panama Canal

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May 2, 2016

Panama Canal Administrator, Jorge L. Quijano, holds up the only two chips in Friday’s drawing. Photo credit: Panama Canal Authority

A China COSCO Shipping containership will be the first ship through the expanded Panama Canal during the inauguration of waterway set for June 26.

China COSCO Shipping’s Neopanamax vessel Andronikos won the drawing to be selected as the first and only vessel to make transit on the inauguration day. The ship is 157 feet in beam and 980.1 feet in length and has a maximum capacity of 9,400 TEUs.

The drawing for the inaugural spot took place Friday morning at the Panama Canal Administration Building before a public notary and invited attendees. Among the 15 shipping lines invited to participate in the drawing, Wallenius Wilhemsen Lines (WWL) and China COSCO Shipping were the only two companies to submit vessels for consideration. WWL participated with its car carrier Thalatta, which has a maximum capacity of 8,000 CEUs and measuring 119.7 feet (36.5m) in beam and 656 feet long.

Vessels are classified as Neopanamax if their dimensions are over 966 feet in length or over 107 feet in beam. The chamber dimensions of the new locks measure 1,400 ft. (427m) long, 180 feet (55m) wide and 60 ft. (18.3m) deep, corresponding to maximum vessel dimensions of 1,200 ft. (366m) LOA 366, 160.7 ft. (49m) in beam and 49.8 ft. (15.2m) in tropical freshwater (TFW) draft.

“It is a great honor to have one of our top customers celebrate this historical moment with us,” said Panama Canal Administrator, Jorge L. Quijano. “We are excited and prepared to continue providing the same reliable and efficient service within the Expanded Panama Canal that our customers have come to expect through the years.”

The Panama Canal began accepting transit bookings for Neopanamax vessels for commercial transits through the Expanded Canal on April 18. Regular commercial transits will begin one day after the inauguration on June 27. The Canal will offer four additional slots per day for Neopanamax vessels, in addition to the existing 25 slots for the existing Canal. The Panama Canal Authority has said that more than 100 Neopanamax ships have already made reservations for commercial transit through the new locks.

The first commercial transit reservation was granted to a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) tanker Linden Pride of Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK Line), represented by shipping agent Norton Lilly International (Panama), S.A. The vessel has a length of 754.59 feet and a beam of 120.08 feet.

The inauguration of the $5.3 billion expansion project comes nearly two years after initially planned. The project has been plagued by cost overruns, contractor disputes, and most recently cracks that formed in the concrete of the new locks.

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