With this measure, the Panama Canal says it is embracing the additional capacity allowed for by the new, larger locks. The seven daily booking slots for Neopanamax vessels are offered in addition to the 23 slots available each day for transit through the Panamax locks.
The additional slot is now available for ships transiting northbound (from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean), and was first offered beginning September 26 through a special competition in the first booking period in adherence to Panama Canal regulations.
Container vessels will have preference over other vessel types when allocating these additional slots. If no container vessels are interested, the slot will be awarded to any vessel that participated in the special competition, based on the Panama Canal Customer Ranking. After the special competition, the slots will be available to all vessels on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Neopanamax Locks can transit additional ships beyond the number of daily slots allotted. For example, the Expanded Canal transited a record 10 Neopanamax ships on November 17, more than three to four daily transits originally expected.
The Panama Canal aims to offer eight Neopanamax reservation slots by the end of the first quarter of 2018 and to gradually implementing additional measures to increase capacity through 2019.
The Neopanamax container ship CMA CGM Theodore Roosevelt became the largest ship to transit the Canal to date in August 2017, measuring 365.96 meters in length and 48.252 meters in beam with a Total TEU Allowance (TTA) of 14,863.
The waterway welcomed a record 403.8 million Panama Canal tons (PC/UMS) of cargo in FY17, the largest annual tonnage ever transited in its 103-year history and a 22.2 percent increase from the previous year. According to figures, the Panama Canal transited a total of 13,548 vessels during its FY17, representing a 3.3 percent increase compared to totals the year before. The growth in traffic translated into a 22.2 percent increase in total annual tonnage from FY16 and helped the Panama Canal surpass its cargo projection of reaching 399 million PC/UMS.