Expanded Panama Canal Marks 600 Transits
Since the inauguration of the Expanded Panama Canal in June, more than 600 ships have transited the waterway, and the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) says that bookings for future traffic is strong. Container ships have made up more than half the volume, including Hapag-Lloyd’s new 10,500 TEU Valparaiso Express, the largest vessel to pass through to date. She is the first in a class of five built specifically to take advantage of the dimensions of the new locks: the Expanded Canal can accommodate ships of up to 160 feet wide, 1,200 feet long and 50 feet of draft, which will allow the passage of boxships of up to 14,000 TEU – roughly three times the capacity of a Panamax vessel.
LNG and LPG carriers, car carriers and bulkers make up the next most common vessel classes to transit the new canal. According to the ACP’s announcements, the pace of traffic has accelerated since the waterway's inauguration: the first 100 vessels transited over the six weeks ending August 15, and the latest 100 vessels passed through during the three weeks ending January 4.
The Expanded Canal's opening was delayed amidst controversies related to cost overruns and construction delays, but in an essay marking the first six months of its operation, ACP administrator Jorge L. Quijano said that he is optimistic for its future. "Despite market fluctuations, the global impact of the Expanded Canal is already apparent," Quijano wrote. "So far ten Neopanamax liner services have been redirected to the waterway in recognition of the value of the route. And ports along the U.S. East Coast . . . continue to invest in major infrastructure improvements to accommodate the larger vessels and volume of goods facilitated by the Expanded Canal."