Panama Canal expansion opened

The much heralded Panama Canal expansion project has opened. The $5.4bn project involved adding new, wider and deeper locks, that will enable much larger ships to cross the Isthmus.

The first ship to cross the new route was the Chinese container ship Cosco Shipping Panama, which passed through the Atlantic facing Agua Clara Locks. The ship was originally names the Andronikos but she was renamed to honour the Panama Canal expansion.

Cosco Shipping Panama carried 9472 TEUs of containers had begun its journey in the Greekport of Piraeus. She is 299.98m in length and 48.25m wide.

The expansion programme, which authorities say is the canal’s greatest expansion project, included the construction of a new set of locks at the Atlantic and Pacific side of the route, as well as the dredging and excavation of 150 million m3 of material. The new locks are 70ft wider and 18ft deeper than the locks in the original canal that was constructed over 100 years ago.

New routes will be able to use the canal, as well as larger liners and segments such as LNG carriers that have not previously been able to use the canal.

Panama Canal administrator and CEO Jorge Quijano said: “Our commitment to provide value to our customers remains paramount. In 2015, we broke our tonnage record with 340.8 million PC/UMS in the original Canal.

“Today, we make history and improve global connectivity. We thank our customers for their support and appreciate the 170 reservations we have received thus far to transit the Expanded Canal.”

Over the years ships have been built to exactly meet the maximum dimensions of the Panama Canal, known as Panamax ships, but recently shipping companies have built far larger ships that take other routes around the world. Lately due to the expansion of the canal, several US East Coast ports have undergone expansion and these should reduce the bottlenecks at LA and Long Beach.