The Panama Canal registered the transit of its 4,000th Neopanamax vessel through the Expanded Canal when the LNG carrier Maria Energy transited southbound from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean on July 29.
The Maria Energy was followed by another LNG tanker, the Maran Gas Alexandria, which also transited the Neopanamax Locks in the southbound direction on Sunday. Both vessels were loaded in Cheniere Energy's Sabine Pass LNG export facility in Louisiana, U.S.
The waterway regularly transits two LNG vessels the same direction in the same day, and has demonstrated the ability to transit up to three vessels the same day in the same direction during periods of high demand.
The Panama Canal announced in June that it will be lifting natural daylight restrictions for LNG transits on October 1, 2018, to offer added capacity to shipping lines. By lifting encounter restrictions, LNG vessels will also 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.
Of the 4,000 vessels that have transited to date, roughly half have been container ships. LPG carriers constitute another 27 percent, and LNG carriers, a relatively new segment to the Panama Canal, have been responsible for 10 percent of traffic. Dry and liquid bulk carriers, car carriers and cruise ships make up the remaining transits.
Notable transits so far include the MSC Anzu, which became the 1,000th transit on March 19, 2017, the COSCO Yantian which registered the 2,000th transit on September 26, 2017, and the MSC Caterina which registered the 3,000th transit on March 2, 2018.