Panama Canal Transits First Q-Flex LNG Carrier

panama canal lng transit record
The Q-Flex LNG carrier Al Safliya transits the Expanded Panama Canal, May 12, 2019. Photo: Panama Canal Authority

The Panama Canal welcomed the largest liquefied natural gas tanker to ever transit the waterway over the weekend. 

The tanker, Qatargas’ Al Safliya, transited the Expanded Panama Canal on Sunday, part of a northbound from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean. At 315 meters in length, 50 meters in beam, and an overall cargo capacity of 210,000 squared meters, the Q-Flex LNG carrier is now the largest ship of its kind to ever transit the waterway.

“This transit reaffirms the Expanded Canal’s ability to reshape world trade and offer customers the benefits of economies of scale,” said Panama Canal Administrator Jorge L. Quijano. “The Panama Canal team is grateful for the industry’s continued confidence in our services and looking forward to welcoming many more Q-Flex vessels in the future.”

Q-Flex LNG tankers can now pass through the Panama Canal following an increase in the maximum allowable beam for vessels transiting the Neopanamax locks implemented June 2018. Under the new limit, the maximum beam allowed is 51.25 meters, up from 49 meters, as measured at the outer surface of a vessel’s shell plate and all protruding structures below the lock walls.

The Panama Canal Authority says much an increase was made possible as a result of the efficiencies gained by the Panama Canal’s continued investment into its operations and resources, and due to the efforts of its employees.

The milestone transit also underscored the Expanded Canal’s environmental benefits as a result of its ability to help vessels shorten the distance and duration of their trips compared to alternate routes. In combination with Al Safliya’s Q-Flex class design, which allows for the 40% reduction of emissions in comparison to other gas carriers, the Panama Canal and Qatargas saved nearly 10,000 tons of CO2 emissions compared to alternative routes, directly reducing of global emissions.

The achievement comes less than a month after the Expanded Canal celebrated its 6,000th Neopanamax vessel to transit, a milestone marked by another LNG tanker, Energy Liberty, on April 23.

The Panama Canal is expecting to see further growth in its LNG transits following the new beam increase. In 2018, the Canal saw 340 LNG transits, up from 181 transits in 2017.

So far in 2019, the Canal has seen over 100 LNG transits.