Panama Canal Expansion Set to be Complete by Early 2016

Panama Canal Expansion To Be Complete By Early 2016

As container ships get bigger, and no sign of the huge growth in the vessels slowing down anytime soon… the ports, rivers and canals along the major trade routes will also need to expand to facilitate.

This is something that those in charge of the Panama Canal have actioned as early as possible, and just a few weeks after the first sailing of the 19,300 TEU Msc Oscar it has been announced that the expansion of the canal will be complete by August 2016.

The Panama Canal is operated by a complex set of locks, in which water is allowed to flow between the different chambers of the canal appropriately to the positioning of the vessel.  Water is juggled between the sections to raise the ship up above sea level, so much so that when the vessel exits into the Gatun Lake it is 26 meters above.

The upgrade to the locking system will allow the waterway to accommodate cargo vessels of up to 3 times the size of its current capacity. The expansion is far from unnecessary as Japanese carrier MOL announce their purchase of 21,000 TEU vessels, and we can be sure the rest will follow as the ‘clash of the titans’ like competition continues.

GUPC (the contractor in charge of the expansion) have explained that the final testing of the 16 new locks will commence in June, and the construction work will be complete by January 2016. This leaves the work over 2 years behind schedule, as repeated delays saw the proposed completion for the 100th anniversary of the canal wiped out.

This will come to benefit our customers, and those involved in shipping cargo between the UK and the west coast of the US. If the Canal could not sustain the growing vessels, freight rates would likely rise as the larger vessels would need to find another route, and the smaller vessels would not benefit from the ‘economies of scale’ like pricing offered by the super ships.

None the less, the work will be completed very soon and will provide major future sustainability for sea freight container shipping for many years to come.

Click to see an explainer video on how the Panama Canal works.

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