Video: New Panama Canal Welcomes First Q-Flex LNG Carrier

Published May 13, 2019 9:29 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Panama Canal Authority announced Monday that it has successfully handled the first transit of a neopanamax-sized Q-Flex LNG carrier, the Al Safliya. 

At 50 meters wide, the Al Safliya is nearly at the maximum allowable width for the expanded canal. One year ago, the Panama Canal Authority increased the width limit from 49 to 51.25 meters, opening up the possibility of accepting larger vessels. 

Al Safliya carries 210,000 cubic meters of LNG, substantially more than previous generations of LNG carriers. She is also more efficient, and in combination with her design, which allows for a 40 percent reduction of emissions in comparison to other gas carriers, the Panama Canal and Qatargas saved nearly 10,000 tons of COemissions compared to alternative routes.

"Today's transit reaffirms the expanded Canal's capacity to transform world trade and offer customers the benefits of economies of scale. The Panama Canal team is grateful for the continued confidence in our services and hopes to welcome many more Q-Flex vessels in the future," said Panama Canal Administrator Jorge L. Quijano.

LNG is an increasingly important part of the expanded canal's portfolio. Last year, it handled 340 LNG vessel transits, nearly twice as many as in 2017. So far this year, it has handled more than 100 - including the LNG carrier Energy Liberty, which on April 23 made the 6,000th expanded canal transit of a neopanamax vessel.

In the years ahead, LNG carrier traffic between the Atlantic and Pacific basins is set to increase. More LNG export terminals are entering service on the U.S. Gulf Coast, and many buyers of American LNG are located in East Asia - creating more demand for canal transits.