Today marked the first voyage by an LNG tanker through the newly expanded Panama Canal. The expansion project began in 2007 and created a new high-capacity lane connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Construction finished in late June. The Panama Canal can now accommodate ships that are one and a half times larger.
The inaugural trip was made by a tanker transporting LNG from Cheniere’s Sabine Pass liquefaction plant in Louisiana. Five months ago, that facility made the first export of US shale gas to overseas markets.
The expanded Panama Canal could boost exports of LNG from the US Gulf Coast to markets in Asia and South America by cutting down on travel time and transportation costs. According to the US Energy Information Administration, travelling through the Panama Canal is considerably faster - as much as 14 days faster - than travelling through the Suez Canal or going around the southern tip of Africa. In addition, the Panama Canal Authority has introduced special toll fees for LNG vessels designed to lower the cost of round trips through the Canal.