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Expanded Panama Canal to be able to handle 97% of containerships

Expanded Panama Canal to be able to handle 97% of containerships
Jorge Quijano, ceo and administrator of the Panama Canal, says it will be able to accommodate 97% of the world’s container fleet when the expanded canal opens next year.

Speaking at the Danish Maritime Forum Quijano said, “Now we will be able to handle up to 14,000 teu vessels. But not at the beginning as we want our pilots to transition starting on smaller vessels of up to 12,000 teu.”

Despite recent problems with leaks in the lock gates of the expanded canal Quijano still expects it to open in April next year.

With the expanded canal he said Panama would be able to handle 97% of the world’s container shipping fleet. However, it will not be able to handle the latest generation of 16,000 – 20,000 teu containerships.

Explaining the decision he said that in every business there are diminishing returns. “We had to make a choice and 97% of the fleet was good enough for us.”

However, there are already designs on the drawing board for ships up to 25,000 teu in capacity and a number of industry officials expect such ships to be ordered in the next two years. Drawing a parallel to the large tanker market in the mid-1970’s he said: “I don’t know if its going to go the route of ULCCs and the become VLCCs again.” Quijano noted such a scenario would be positive for the Panama Canal.

Panama is also looking to continuing expanding its ports and logistics infrastructure with 80% of the container vessels transiting the canal either calling terminals on the Pacific or Atlantic side. As a result Panama now handles 7m teu of transhipment volumes a year.

Quijano said Panama is looking to diversify into new sectors such as ro-ro terminal facilities as well.