The LNG Sakura carrier’s transit of the Panama Canal with the Dominion Cove Point LNG cargo heading for Japan marked the opening of a new route from the USA to Asia.
The vessel, that departed the export terminal on April 22, completed its transit earlier this weekend, the Panama Canal said.
Dominion Cove Point has two main clients, ST Cove Point, a consortium consisting of Sumitomo Corporation and Tokyo Gas and Gail Global LNG, a unit of GAIL of India.
The LNG Sakura carries the first shipment of the 0.8 million tons of LNG contracted per year by the Japanese energy company Kansai Electric.
LNG Sakura’s transit on Saturday began in the Agua Clara locks on Panama’s Atlantic side and headed towards the Cocolí locks in the Pacific.
Kansai Electric Power is the majority share owner of the LNG Sakura (70 percent) while the NYK Line owns the remaining stake.
Panama Canal grew in importance as a link in the global LNG supply chain since it opened the expansion was complete in 2016.
Today, the capacity of the Canal exceeds the existing demand with the seven booking slots to LNG shippers per week, while 5.5 transits on average are completed during the week.
Panama Canal added in its statement it is capable of handling a larger number of LNG transits, as it did on April 17, when three LNG carriers completed the passage through the waterway.
In FY 2018, the Canal’s LNG traffic is expected to grow by 50 percent compared to FY 2017, increasing from 163 to approximately 244 transits, the statement reads.
The Canal has worked closely with industry partners to communicate its willingness to offer shippers additional capacity, commensurate with demand, as is warranted.