Panama Canal: First LNG Tanker Booked for Late July

The LPG tanker
The LPG tanker Lycaste Peace in the Panama Canal’s new Agua Clara locks on the first day of commercial operations, June 27, 2016. Photo: Panama Canal Authority

The Panama Canal Authority says it has booked the first LNG tanker through the expanded Panama Canal as commercial operations of the enhanced waterway get underway.

Panama inaugurated the $5.25 billion expansion project on Sunday with the transit of the containership MV Cosco Shipping Panama and by Monday the first vessels began making their way through the Canal’s new locks.

The Canal Authority says that so far it has booked 170 so-called Neopanamax ships through the new locks, including the first LNG vessel to make the transit in late July.

Bloomberg reports that BP is sending the first cargo through the wider Panama Canal on board the LNG tanker British Merchant, which will begin its journey in Trinidad & Tobago before heading to the canal for passage to the Pacific Ocean. The tanker has a capacity of 138,517 cubic meters of gas.

Not only will the expansion project boost the cargo capacity of the Panama Canal, but it also opens the waterway up to new services and segments, such as liquified natural gas (LNG) for the first time.

“We are thrilled that we currently have 170 reservations for Neopanamax ships, commitments of two new liner services to the Expanded Canal, and a reservation for the first LNG vessel, which will transit in late July,” said Panama Canal Administrator Jorge L. Quijano, speaking before a large crowd at Sunday’s inauguration. “Our customers care that their supply chain is reliable and that they have a diversity of shipping options. And the Canal has always been reliable; today, we offer the world new shipping options and trade routes.”

Panama has said it expects 20 million tons of liquefied natural gas to pass through the canal annually once operations are in full swing.

See: Expanded Panama Canal Preparing for New Era of LNG