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Panama Canal Authority to lift daylight restrictions for LNG carriers

Staff Writer |
One year after the Shell-chartered Maran Gas Apollonia became the first LNG carrier to traverse the newly expanded Panama Canal, other 138 LNG carriers have transited it, representing 9.1% of the total ships that have passed through.

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On Monday, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) celebrated the one-year anniversary of the inauguration of its expansion with plans to lift its daylight restrictions on LNG carriers in 2018, the ACP's liquids bulk specialist, Jose Arango, said in an interview.

Since its expansion on June 26 last year, the Panama Canal has has daylight restrictions for LNG carriers to ensure the safety of the vessel and canal workers, according to Arango.

Although, the canal is open around the clock, LNG carriers require a daylight transit, from 3 am to 6 pm, Arango said. However, to allow a higher number of LNG carries go through the Canal, ACP plans to end the restriction.

"In the best case scenario we expect to lift the daylight restrictions by October 2018," he said.

On average, six vessels transit the expanded canal per day -- surpassing original forecasts of two to three daily transits for the first year of operation, Arango said. LNG carriers are the only ships that has an exclusive daily slot.

Other vessels, such as those carrying LPG or container ships, need to compete to get into the remaining slots, Arango added. Despite the positive expectations for more demand by LNG carriers, there is yet no plan to increase the LNG slots.

"We have been in a learning curve," Arango said. As for right now there is no plan to add another slot for LNG as it will depends on how the LNG market behaves, he added.

More than 1,500 ships have transited the expanded Panama Canal. Container ships represent 51.3% of the total, followed by LPG tankers and LNG carriers, which represent 31.5% and 9.1%, respectively, ACP said on Monday.


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