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Panama Canal expansion: a sound investment for LNG?

LNG Industry,

Will the expansion of the Panama Canal present an economically attractive prospect for LNG shipments?

This is the question that LNG owners and operators seeking to weigh up potential costs are asking themselves. Now they are starting to get a feel for the costs, but many questions remain.

The price of a round trip, those familiar with the toll structure suggest, will total approximately US$ 800 000 for a 175 000 m3 ship. But it is unclear whether this will cover other items such as security and booking fees.

Scheduling is also proving a concern. LNG carriers will not be afforded priority bookings, and no more than six ships a day in each direction will be allowed to transit the canal.

One consultant estimated that if one LNG carrier per day transited the waterway, approximately 25 million tpa of LNG would be transported through the canal.

Toll structure

Using the Suez Canal model, the ships will be charged by cargo-tank capacity and not by a vessel’s gross tonnage. Vessels in ballast are deemed to be those carrying up to 10% of their cargo volume to accommodate the heel needed to keep vessels cool. A special reduced ballast rate would be offered to operators undertaking a round trip.

The Society of International Gas Tanker & Terminal Operators (Sigtto) published its Guidance for LNG Carriers Transiting the Panama Canal at the start of this month. The guide will be used by shipping companies planning to transit the canal, which is due to be completed next year.

At present, the dimensions of the canal allow 7.2% of LNG carriers around the world to pass through it. After the expansion is finished, 81% of the LNG fleet and the world’s VLGC tonnage will be able to complete the transit.

Edited from various sources by Ted Monroe

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