Chinese ship makes inaugural transit across expanded Panama Canal
A Chinese container ship became the first vessel to make the inaugural passage through the newly expanded Panama Canal, a nine-year, $5 billion project that authorities hope will usher in a new era of global commerce at a time when the shipping industry is facing one of the worst slumps in history.
The COSCO Shipping Panama crossed the 50-mile canal shortly after 8 am on Sunday morning. It had set sale from the Greek Port of Piraeus two weeks prior and once it reached Panama transited the Agua Clara Locks on the Atlantic side of the canal in the morning and the Cocoli Locks in the afternoon.
Over 5,000 people attended the inaugural ceremony, which included the Panamanian president and government officials, the administrator of the Panama Canal Authority, a COSCO SHIPPING delegation led by the company’s chairman Xu Lirong, as well as workers who helped build the canal project and local residents.
Xu said that the expansion is not only a major development for the canal but a “milestone of the global shipping industry”.
The shipping company is the largest in the world in terms of carrying capacity and one of the canal’s biggest users, so being the first to transit the expanded canal is “not only an honor for the vessel and its crew,” but for all of the company and its employees, he said. ■