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First LNG CarrierMaran Gas Apollonia Transits the Expanded Panama Canal

LNG carrier Maran Gas Apollonia
The LNG carrier Maran Gas Apollonia approaches the Agua Clara locks in the Panama Canal, July 25, 2016. Photo: Panama Canal Authority (ACP)

The first cargo of LNG entered the expanded Panama Canal on Monday marking the latest in the ‘new era’ of shipping being ushered in with the opening of the canal’s larger locks last month.

The LNG carrier Maran Gas Apollonia entered the new Agua Clara locks on the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal Monday morning carrying a cargo of LNG from the U.S. Gulf Coast to Asia.

The transit marks the first natural gas cargo ever through the Panama Canal.

The $5.3 billion Panama Canal expansion project was inaugurated June 26 with new locks big enough to accommodate most LNG carriers, an entirely new segment for the waterway.

The Shell-chartered MV Maran Gas Apollonia, measuring 289 meters in length and 45 meters in beam, is sailing from Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass export terminal in Louisiana en-route to east Asia. AIS data showed the ship under using engine having already cleared Gatun Lake as of 1:23 p.m. local time.

A second LNG carrier, BP’s LNG carrier British Merchant, is expected to pass through the Panama Canal on Tuesday, followed by a third cargo in early August.

The Panama Canal Authority said Monday the opening of the expansion and transit of Maran Gas Apollonia ushers in a “new era” for the LNG segment and global LNG trade, with new locks that can accommodate 90 percent of the world’s LNG carriers, according to the ACP.

“For example, with the United States poised to become one of the world’s top LNG exporters in the next five years, the Canal will allow vessels departing the U.S. East and Gulf Coast for Asia to enjoy significant reductions in voyage times (up to 22.8 days roundtrip), making U.S. gas deliveries to major Asian importers very competitive. Vessels departing the U.S. Gulf Coast for the West Coast of South America will similarly experience generous time savings”, the ACP said in a statement Monday.

“In addition, LNG ships from the production plants in Trinidad and Tobago could head to Chile where LNG is regasified and distributed for energy-producing purposes. For this route, the Expanded Canal provides savings of 6.3 days in transit time compared to the Magellan Strait,” the ACP said.

“The transit of the first LNG vessel through the new Panama Canal locks is a milestone in the waterway’s history,” said Panama Canal Administrator and CEO Jorge L. Quijano. “LNG trade will greatly benefit from the Expansion, and we look forward to welcoming even more LNG vessels through our great waterway. This transit marks the beginning of a new era that will result in cleaner and lower cost energy for the world.”

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