THE Expanded Panama Canal celebrated its first birthday on Monday June 26, The Maritime Executive reported.
In its first year of operation, over 1,500 Neopanamax vessels have transited the new locks. Container ships represent approximately 46.8 per cent of traffic through the Expanded Canal, and the Panama Canal Authority has welcomed 15 new liner services.
On May 24, less than a month after the previous record was set, the Panama Canal welcomed the Neopanamax container vessel OOCL France, making it the largest capacity vessel to transit the Expanded Canal to date. The OOCL France, which measures 366 metres in length and 48 metres in beam with a capacity of 13,926 TEU, transited northbound from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean.
The OOCL France is deployed on the new OCEAN Alliance's weekly South Atlantic Express (SAX) service, connecting Asia-US East Coast ports via the Panama Canal. The SAX service is comprised of 11 vessels ranging in size from 11,000 to 13,000 TEU. OOCL France is the second vessel in this service to transit through the Expanded Canal after the Cosco Development which set the previous record on May 2. The Cosco Development has the same length and breadth as OOCL France and has a capacity of 13,345TEU.
Container ship throughput is followed by LPG carrier and LNG carrier traffic, which represent approximately 34.2 and 9.4 per cent, respectively. The Expanded Canal can accommodate 90 per cent of the world's LNG tankers.
On April 29, the Expanded Panama Canal also welcomed its first passenger vessel through the new locks: the Disney Cruise Line Disney Wonder.
Panama Canal tonnage has increased by 22.2 per cent compared to the 2016 and 2017 fiscal year. On average, 5.9 vessels transit the Expanded Canal per day, surpassing original forecasts of two to three daily transits for the first year of operation.
While the expanded 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 per cent of the water used per transit.