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Milestone transit proves expanded Panama Canal's value to US LNG

Milestone transit proves expanded Panama Canal's value to US LNG
Travelling southbound from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, LNG carrier SK Resolute made the 10,000th Neopanamax transit of the expanded Panama Canal since its opening in June 2016

Growth in LNG shipping traffic has grown hand-in-hand with US LNG exports, which began in 2016. With significant reductions in voyage time, the expanded canal offers a more competitive route for US LNG deliveries from the US east and Gulf coasts to major importers in Asia.

For example, LNG carriers travelling at an average speed of 10 knots from Sabine Pass to Tokyo via the Panama Canal will take 38 days and 9 hours to transit the 9,209 nautical miles. By contrast, the same ship travelling at the same speed would have to sail 14,521 nautical miles via the Suez Canal, taking 60 days and 12 hours, according to Sea-Distances.org. Routes via the Cape of Good Hope or the Straits of Magellan take even longer.

As a result, the LNG shipping segment now represents 12% of transits at the expanded canal, surpassed only by container ships with 46% and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) with 25%. This had led the Neopanamax Locks to see 27% of transits and half of total tonnage at the canal.

Bolstered by shale gas, the US is a major exporter of LPG, led by the ports of Houston, Freeport, Beaumont and Corpus Christi, Texas, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The milestone transit was completed by SK Shipping’s SK Resolute on 11 August. Built in 2018, the Panama-flag vessel has a cargo capacity of 180,000 m3 with a length of 292 m and beam of 47.8 m. Monday marked the vessel’s 13th transit through the waterway. It often travels between the east coast of the US and South Korea and Japan, as well as from Chile to the east coast of North America.

Coincidently, the Panama Canal will mark its 106th anniversary on 15 August, making for an eventful week for the waterway.

"The two historic milestones this week – our 10,000th Neopanamax transit and 106th anniversary – are symbolic,” said Panama Canal administrator Ricaurte Vasquez. “Together, they reiterate that the Panama Canal is not only a trusted and reliable service, but also one committed to continued competitiveness and growth.”

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