Less than three years since its inauguration, the Expanded Panama Canal welcomed Qatargas’ Al Safliya, the first Q-Flex and the largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) carrier to ever transit the waterway.
The tanker, which has an overall cargo capacity of 210,000 cbm of LNG, transited northbound from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean on May 12, 2019.
Featuring a length of 315 meters and a width of 50 meters, the Bahamas-flagged Al Safliya has a gross tonnage of 137,535 tons.
“This transit reaffirms the Expanded Canal’s ability to reshape world trade and offer customers the benefits of economies of scale,” Jorge L. Quijano, Panama Canal Administrator, commented, adding that the Panama Canal is looking forward to welcoming many more Q-Flex vessels in the future.
Q-Flex LNG tankers can now pass through the Panama Canal following an increase in the maximum allowable beam for vessels transiting the Neopanamax locks.
Implemented in June 2018, the maximum beam allowed is 51.25 meters, up from 49 meters, as measured at the outer surface of a vessel’s shell plate and all protruding structures below the lock walls.
As explained, the milestone transit also underscored the Expanded Canal’s environmental benefits as a result of its ability to help vessels shorten the distance and duration of their trips compared to alternate routes.
In combination with Al Safliya’s Q-Flex class design, which allows for the 40% reduction of emissions in comparison to other gas carriers, the Panama Canal and Qatargas saved nearly 10,000 tons of CO2 emissions compared to alternative routes, directly reducing of global emissions, according to the Panama Canal Authority.
This achievement comes less than a month after the Expanded Canal celebrated its 6,000th Neopanamax vessel transit. The milestone was achieved by another LNG tanker, Energy Liberty, on April 23.
The Panama Canal is expecting to see further growth in its LNG transits following the new beam increase. In 2018, the canal saw 340 LNG transits, up from 181 transits in 2017. So far in 2019, the canal has seen over 100 LNG transits.