Expanded Panama Canal is now officially open for business

The inaugural transit through the Panama Canal’s new larger locks began Sunday with the passage of Neopanamax vessel COSCO Shipping Panama through the Agua Clara Locks on the Atlantic side of the country and concluded with its transit through the Cocoli Locks on the Pacific side. The ship is en route to Asia.

The canal authority says the Expansion will provide greater economies of scale to global commerce. It will introduce new routes, liner services, and segments such as liquefied natural gas (LNG).

“We are thrilled that we currently have 170 reservations for Neopanamax ships, commitments of two new liner services to the Expanded Canal, and a reservation for the first LNG vessel, which will transit in late July,” said Panama Canal Administrator and CEO Jorge L. Quijano. “Our customers care that their supply chain is reliable and that they have a diversity of shipping options. And the Canal has always been reliable; today, we offer the world new shipping options and trade routes.”

The Expansion Program is the Canal’s largest enhancement project. In 2006, more than 75 percent of Panamanians approved the project in a nation-wide referendum, and, in 2007, construction of the $5.25 billion project began.

It included the construction of a new set of locks on the Atlantic and Pacific sides of the waterway and the excavation of more than 150 million cubic meters of material, creating a second lane of traffic and doubling the cargo capacity of the waterway.

In 2015, the original Canal set a tonnage record, transiting 340.8 million PC/UMS. It will continue to operate, transiting Panamax-sized vessels or smaller. While the Expansion’s locks are 70 feet wider and 18 feet deeper than those in the original Canal, they use less water due to water-savings basins that recycle 60 percent of the water used per transit.

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