COSCO Development Sets Record as Largest Ship to Use Panama Canal Expansion

panama canal largest ship
The MV Cosco Development is the largest ship to ever use the 102-year-old waterway. Photo credit: ACP

The Panama Canal on Tuesday welcomed the largest vessel to transit through the Expanded Canal since its inauguration in June 2016.

The 13,092 TEU Neopanamax containership COSCO Development, measuring 366 meters in length and 48.2 meters in beam, is sailing from Asia and will soon become the largest ship to arrive on the U.S. East Coast when it calls at several ports there beginning next week. With the transit the COSCO Development sets the record for the biggest ship to ever use the Panama Canal by both dimensions and capacity. 

The COSCO Development is deployed on the new OCEAN Alliance’s weekly South Atlantic Express (SAX) service, connecting Asia-US East Coast ports via the Panama Canal. The SAX service has a total of 11 vessels ranging in size from 11,000 to 13,000 TEUs. The OCEAN Alliance includes China COSCO Shiping, Orient Overseas Container Lines (OOCL), CMA CGM Group and Evergreen, which are among the Panama Canal’s top customers by volume.

panama canal expansion biggest ship
The container ship COSCO Development is seen as it becomes the largest vessel in dimension and capacity to transit the Expanded Panama Canal at Agua Clara locks, on the outskirts of Colon City, Panama May 2, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Lemos

Since the Expanded Canal’s inauguration, the waterway has seen its Neopanamax traffic steadily increase. The expansion has now welcomed more than 1,200 Neopanamax vessels for an average of 5.9 vessels per day, which is more than the initial daily estimate of two and three transits per day during the first year of operation. In addition, a total of 15 new liner services have shifted to take advantage of the new route.

The Panama Canal Authority says containerships represent approximately 43 percent of all ship traffic through the new locks, followed by liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) carriers and liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers, which represent approximately 29.1 and 8.3 percent, respectively. Other segments such as bulk carriers, tankers, car carriers, and even cruise ships, have now also transited the new locks.

See Also: Expanded Panama Canal Milestones – In Pictures

“Today’s milestone transit ushers in a new era of mega-ships transiting the Expanded Canal,” said Panama Canal Administrator Jorge L. Quijano. “This is yet another example of the Expansion surpassing our original expectations, which was made possible in part by our continued investment in the in-depth training of our Canal workforce.”

panama canal largest ship
REUTERS/Carlos Lemos

Similar to the Panama Canal, ports along the U.S. East Coast have also set tonnage records this year. The Ports of Savannah, Charleston and Virginia-which the COSCO Development will call on next week-have seen strong performance, in particular, due in part to the investments they have made to accommodate larger vessels passing through the Expansion.

“Less than one year in, and the impact of the Expanded Canal is already evident across the world,” said Quijano. “As liners continue to reroute services and consolidate cargo on larger vessels, we look forward to welcoming the increase of Neopanamax traffic with the same safe, reliable service our customers have come to expect.”