New Panama Canal expansion opens today

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The Panama Canal expansion
The Panama Canal expansion

$5.25 billion dollar canal expansion opens for business

One of the world’s largest and most complicated engineering projects was inaugurated today in Panama. The Panama Canal expansion is now open to neo-Panamax sized ships. Traditionally, only ships built to Panamax specifications could pass through the Panama Canal.

What are Panamax and neo-Panamax ships?

Panamax ships are allowed maximum dimensions of 294m in length, 32.31m in width and 12.04m in depth. This commonly excludes ships like Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 which is 41m wide.

neo-Panamax ships are allowed maximum dimensions of 366m in length, 49m in width and 15.2m in depth – a massive increase for commerical shipping operators to take advantage of. It is expected a new wave of orders for ships of this size will be placed over the next coming years as using the Panama Canal benefits in savings of around 14 days voyage time for ships that use it.

The Panama Canal expansion
The Panama Canal expansion

The new canal runs alongside the existing canal and operates quite differently than the old way. There are no “mules” (small trains either side of the ship which are used to pull the ship through) on the new canal – instead, they use a tug at the front and back of each ship.

This video shows you in detail how the new locks will operate:

Previously, ships with a max-capacity of around 5000 TEU (number of containers on the ship) could pass through the canal. However, the new canal will allow container ships carrying over 13000 TEU to pass through with ease. It’s good news for cruise lines too; Royal Caribbean’s Quantum-class ships could for example use the new canal to reposition their ships from the East to West coast of the USA or vice versa – look out for announcements from major cruise lines soon.

Panama Canal expansion gallery

More information can be found on the official website.