US LNG export player Cheniere Energy and the Panama Canal discussed the growth of the waterway’s growing LNG segment as well as opportunities for future growth.
Liquefied natural gas (LNG) has become the canal’s fastest-growing segment, urging the authorities to work with shippers in order to improve service.
When the Expanded Canal was inaugurated in June 2016, it opened the waterway up to 90 percent of the global LNG fleet and allowed LNG producers in the United States to ship natural gas to Asia at competitive prices for the first time.
Since then, the Canal’s Neopanamax locks have transited more than 280 LNG vessels, and industry experts expect traffic to continue to rise steadily. Cheniere’s managing director, commercial operations and asset optimization, Eric Bensaude, noted that out of the 280 LNG transits, 62 were made by vessels delivering cargoes from Cheniere’s Sabine Pass LNG facility.
“As exports from the United States increase, LNG transits could increase by 50 percent by as early as September,” said Panama Canal administrator Jorge Quijano.
Commensurate with current levels of traffic, the Panama Canal offers one reservation slot per day for LNG vessels. The canal has transited up to two fully loaded LNG vessels a day, when it has been necessary, as part of its efforts to accommodate customers’ needs.
In fact, two-LNG-transit days have become more and more frequent as the result of the optimization achieved by traffic scheduling and close coordination with canal customers, canal’s statement reads.
The Panama Canal is also offering more flexibility for LNG bookings so exporters can opt for the canal route even if that was not the original plan.
As expectations for growing LNG shipments materialize, the Panama Canal is already working towards increasing the number of LNG vessels that can transit the Neopanamax locks in a day.