The Panama Canal Authority has started taking reservations for transit through the canal’s new wider, deeper locks, which are slated to open June 27.
Many of today’s oceangoing vessels are too big to fit through the 100-year-old waterway’s locks, some stretches of which taper to as little as 110 feet wide. In a statement Monday, the Canal Authority said the first reservation through the new canal was granted to a 120-foot wide liquefied petroleum gas tanker owned by Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha, known as NYK Line.
The Panama Canal expansion will make it possible for larger oil tankers and container ships to travel the 50 miles between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Experts have estimated that as much as 10% of cargo moving from Asia to the U.S. could shift from West Coast to East Coast ports once the Panama Canal expansion is open for business.
The project, which launched in 2007, has endured delays and racked up costs well over $5 billion. Now, with a start date and reservations in the system, the project appears to be reaching its final stages at long last.
“Today marks an important day in Canal history,“ Canal Administrator Jorge Quijano said in a statement. ”We hope that each day more vessels transit through the expanded Canal.”
On the first day of accepting reservations, 25 mega-vessels that wouldn’t have fit through old locks were able to reserve passage through the new, wider canal.