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Q-Flex Al Safliya becomes largest LNG carrier to transit Panama Canal

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Sunday marked another milestone for the Panama Canal with the transit of Qatargas Al Safliya, to date the largest LNG carrier to transit the waterway.

The Q-Flex tanker–which measures 315 metres in length and 50 metres in beam with an overall cargo capacity of 210,000 cu m of LNG–transited northbound from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean.

“This transit reaffirms the expanded Canal’s ability to reshape world trade and offer customers the benefits of economies of scale,” said Panama Canal Administrator Jorge L. Quijano. “The Panama Canal team is grateful for the industry’s continued confidence in our services and looking forward to welcoming many more Q-Flex vessels in the future.”

Q-Flex LNG tankers can now pass through the Panama Canal following an increase in the maximum allowable beam for vessels transiting the neo-panamax locks. Implemented in June 2018, the maximum beam allowed is 51.25 metres, up from 49 metres, as measured at the outer surface of a vessel's shell plate and all protruding structures below the lock walls.

Such an increase was made possible as a result of the efficiencies gained by the Panama Canal's continued investment into its operations and resources, and due to the ongoing excellence and experience of its employees, said the Canal Authority.

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The transit also underscored the expanded Canal’s environmental benefits as a result of its ability to help vessels shorten the distance and duration of their trips compared to alternate routes.

In combination with Al Safliya’s Q-Flex class design, which allows for the 40% reduction of emissions in comparison to other gas carriers, the Panama Canal and Qatargas saved nearly 10,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions compared to alternative routes, directly reducing of global emissions.

A month ago, the expanded Canal celebrated its 6,000th neo-panamax vessel to transit, a milestone marked by another LNG tanker, Energy Liberty, on 23 April.

The Panama Canal is expecting to see further growth in its LNG transits following the new beam increase. In 2018, the Canal saw 340 LNG transits, up from 181 transits in 2017. So far in 2019, the Canal has seen over 100 LNG transits.

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