Trials of the Atlantic locks of the expanded Panama Canal are set to start in the next two days with a Greek vessel, while the China Cosco Shipping vessel for the inaugural transit on 26 June will depart from Piraeus on Saturday.
Panama Canal Administrator Jorge Quijano attending Posidonia 2016 told Seatrade following completion of testing of the control systems the chartered in 114,248 dwt bulker Baroque, owned by Golden Union, would be arriving in Panama to test the locks the on the Atlantic side of the canal.
Once the vessel has been inspected it will undertake trials of the Atlantic side locks going up, turning around and coming back down, it will not, however, make a full transit of the expanded canal.
“It will do that a couple of times a day and this for not only testing the system but also ensuring that our pilots and tugboat pilots have the ability to practice with a new panamax,” Quijano explained.
“Golden Union they are very happy that their vessel is going to be the one that makes the trials,” he added.
At the same time testing of the Pacific locks will undertaken by with a buoy tender from the Panama Canal Authority (ACP). “There are other possibilities we undertake between now and 26 June on the Pacific side to make sure everything is working,” he said.
The first full transit of the expanded canal will be reserved for the neo-panamax containership Cosco Shipping Panama. The vessel is set to depart for Panama from Cosco Pacific’s terminal in the Port of Piraeus on Saturday 11 June, and Quijano is staying on after Posidonia to see the for himself vessel and meet with its Captain before it sets sail.
In terms of business for the expanded canal Quijano said they had seen customers switching to use larger vessels and at least one new service being launched. Between now and September 119 reservations have been made for neo-panamax vessel transits. Of these 112 are from containerships, with the remainder from large LPG carriers.
Quijano said most of the interest had come from Asian companies NYK, China Cosco Shipping, Evergreen and K Line all making reservations, with its first from Europe, by MSC, last Friday.
On top of the reservations there will be more transits by vessels coming a first-come-first served basis.
As yet there are no reservations from LNG carriers a new business area the canal is targeting. “We’ve been talking with LNG exporters and we see before the end of the year some of them coming through once a week,” Quijano said.
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