Report: Panama Canal Eyes Fivefold Increase in LNG Shipments by 2020

Panama Canal is set to handle 30 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) per year by 2020, according to Jorge Quijano, canal administrator, cited by Reuters.

This would be a fivefold increase in yearly handling of LNG for the canal authority when compared to figures from 2017.

The canal has been working relentlessly to bolster its capacity amid the anticipated growth of natural gas exports from the United States, as well as oil exports.

U.S. LNG exports through the canal are set to rise to as much as 11 million tonnes this year and to around 20 million tonnes in 2019, according to Quijano.

To that end, the canal has mastered handling of LNG carriers, and just a week ago, reported its first transit of three LNG carriers through the expanded Neopanamax locks in a single day.

Currently, the Panama Canal offers one of the seven Neopanamax reservation slots available per day to LNG shippers, which currently average five transits per week. Nevertheless, when seasonal demand increases there is a need for more daily transfers.

Based on the canal authority’s figures, the canal has locked 134 LNG transits in the first three months of this year.

The Panama Canal Authority has described its liquid bulk segment as “thriving”, as it accounts for 28.7 percent of all canal transits.

The majority has come from tankers, which have contributed 33.3 million PCUMS tons in fiscal year 2018. Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) has contributed 7.1 percent of total canal transits this fiscal year, and is the Neopanamax locks’ second largest segment behind containers with 25.4 percent. The waterway’s newest segment, LNG, has also emerged as its fastest-growing.

An increase in transits through the canal is also anticipated once the Port of Corpus Christi completes the project to improve its waterway. The port has secured federal approval and partial funding for the commencement of its Channel Improvement Project. Once complete, the channel will allow greater volumes of liquid bulk, including LNG and LPG, to be exported to the port’s global trading partners, thus driving up the canal’s volumes.

Last week the canal authority hosted a delegation from the port to discuss growth opportunities.

“We’ve long enjoyed a positive relationship with the Panama Canal and valued the chance to witness the scale and operation of its new locks up close,” said Sean Strawbridge, Port of Corpus Christi CEO.

“As we prepare to capitalize on the greater export capacity afforded by the dredging of our channel as well as the addition of new terminals coming online in the Gulf of Mexico, we look forward to working alongside the Panama Canal to meet the world’s growing energy needs.”

World Maritime News Staff

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