It is stated that the milestone transit was achieved by one of the large LNG carriers that regularly transit the Panama Canal since the opening of the Neopanamax locks. Sailing from the United States to China, the SK Resolute, with a capacity of 180,000 m3 of liquefied natural gas, made the transit on August 10 as part of her regular service.
According to the Panama Canal Authority, the significant reductions in voyage time provided to LNG carriers by the new locks helped to create a highly competitive route for U.S. gas deliveries to major Asian importers.
The administrator of the Panama Canal, Ricaurte Vásquez Morales commented that
Reaching this mark just over four years after the opening of the expanded canal, reaffirms the competitiveness of the interoceanic highway, backed by the continuous, safe and reliable service that we have maintained in the midst of the current world situation.
Overall, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the Canal, which in May it reported a 21% decline in the number of ships making the transit compare to their budget. A total of 937 ships transited the canal while an additional 260 transits were canceled according to Vásquez. Nearly half of the cancelations came from LNG and LPG tankers while the canal also reported the loss of the cruise ship traffic that is usually at a peak in the spring as lines repositioned from the Caribbean for the summer months in Alaska.
In addition, the Panama Canal recently announced the increase of the maximum authorised draft for neopanamax vessels transiting the canal to 14.33 m (47 ft) Tropical Fresh Water (TFW).