The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) yesterday celebrated the first anniversary of the opening of the expanded waterway, described as a game-changing event in the history of maritime transport.
ACP said the expanded canal’s inauguration on 26 June 2016 had resulted in “redrawn global trade routes”.
The first post-panamax vessel to transit the canal was the specially renamed 9,443 teu Cosco Shipping Panama.
Prior to the $5.2bn upgrade and widening of its locks, the 77km canal linking the Pacific Ocean with the Atlantic was restricted to vessels of about 5,100 teu.
Since then, the ACP said, more than 1,500 neopanamax vessels had transited the canal, of which 51% were containerships that included 13,000+ teu vessels, such as the NYK –operated NYK Remus.
“These transits are a testament to the global maritime industry’s confidence in the expanded canal,” said ACP administrator Jorge Quijano. “The countless accomplishments set over the past year have surpassed even our own expectations for the project.”
According to the ACP, 15 out of the 29 liner services that use the canal now deploy neopanamax vessels, with the majority of these linking Asia with the US east coast.
The knock-on effect of the bigger ships has been particularly strong growth in throughput through US Gulf and east coast ports.
For example Jacksonville Port Authority said it had seen a 13% growth in Asian container shipments in its first half of fiscal year 2017, compared with the same period of the previous year.
Looking forward, the ACP said it had plans to concession a ro-ro terminal to serve as a centre for vehicle redistribution as well as machinery and heavy lifts, along with a 1,200ha logistics park to strengthen logistics services in the region.