Panama Canal Boosts LNG Carrier Transits
On October 1, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) will lift daylight and encounter restrictions on LNG carrier transits through the New Panama Canal locks, allowing it to offer a second daily slot for the vessel class.
Since the ACP opened the new locks to LNG carrier transits in June 2016, it has restricted their passage to daylight hours only. It also forbids LNG carriers on opposite transits to pass each other within the waterway (an "encounter restriction").
The ACP sets aside one daily reservation slot for LNG carriers, and can facilitate an additional daily transit for vessels without reservations, as capacity allows. Over the past two years, the waterway has seen a total of 372 LNG transits. 35 of these arrived without a reservation, and the Canal transited 30 of these ships the same day.
"Lifting daylight restrictions means LNG vessels will be able to transit the locks at night - as vessels in other segments currently do," said Deputy Administrator Manuel E. Benitez in a statement. "Lifting encounter restrictions means LNG vessels will be able to navigate Gatun Lake at the same time, allowing two different LNG vessels to transit the Canal the same day in two different directions. Together, these changes will provide more flexibility and time during the day to transit LNG vessels, and result in an opportunity for LNG shippers to compete for a second booking slot."
At present, LNG carriers make an average of 5.5 transits per week, but with the growing market for liquefied natural gas in the Pacific basin, the demand for shippers is higher, the ACP says. According to the Canal, LNG transits on the waterway are expected to grow by more than 50 percent by the end of FY2018 compared to FY2017.