Panama Canal conducts trial run in anticipation of expansion inauguration

by World Grain Staff
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Panama Canal Cocoli Locks
ACP-owned crane ship Oceanus successfully transits the new Pacific-facing Cocoli Locks on June 20.
 
PANAMA CITY, PANAMA —Panama Canal officials said they conducted another successful trial transit in the expanded canal. The transiting vessel, a U.S.-built crane ship named the Oceanus, was maneuvered through the Pacific-facing Cocoli Locks by Panama Canal Pilots Fernando Jaén and Ricardo Varela on June 20.

The inauguration of the expanded Panama Canal will take place on June 26 with the first commercial transit of the COSCO Shipping Panama. Once inaugurated the expanded canal will double the waterway's cargo capacity, enhancing the canal's efficiency, reliability and customer service.

The port has undergone a massive $5.25 billion expansion that will allow for the transit of ships with significantly more capacity than before. 

A major part of the expansion, costing $2.75 million, is a set of new locks to allow the wider, longer and more heavily loaded ships. Panamax ships, which have a draft of 39.5 feet or less, are currently the largest ships that can pass through the canal. After the expansion, ships with a draft of up to 50 feet will be able to pass.

It is expected that the expanded canal would drop the cost to transport grain from the U.S. Corn Belt to Asia by an estimated 12%, thus increasing the cost competitiveness of the U.S. as a grain exporter to Asia. 
 
A Rabobank report on the expansion said the expansion of the canal will accommodate grain-laden ships from the U.S. of 25% more capacity than before, resulting in a shift in U.S. grain shipping routes that doubles the draw area west of the Mississippi River for exports through the Panama Canal.  
 
Rabobank predicts the decline in shipping cost, coupled with the increased capacity, will help ports along the U.S. Gulf to regain export volume lost to ports in the Pacific Northwest over the last decade, and also benefit large grain traders and exporters with operations in the U.S. Gulf region. 
 

To read more about the Rabobank study, click here

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