The Panama Canal expansion is near completion.

China COSCO Shipping has won the draw for the first transit through the expanded Panama Canal during the waterway’s inauguration on June 26.

The shipping line’s container vessel Andronikos will be making the inaugural transit. The vessel, which has a maximum capacity of 9,400 twenty-foot equivalent units, is 27.06 feet in beam and 984.19 feet in length.

In addition, more than 100 Neopanamax ships have already made reservations for commercial transit through the new locks, which will begin June 27 following the historic inauguration. Neopanamax ships are the largest vessels that will be able to transit the expanded canal.

According to the Panama Canal Authority, the $5.25 billion expansion will double the canal’s capacity, having a direct impact on economies of scale and international maritime trade. It will help maintain the canal’s competitiveness and the value of the maritime route through Panama.

The expansion, which began in September 2007, is the largest project at the canal since its original construction. The project creates a new lane of traffic along the canal through the construction of a new set of locks, doubling the waterway’s capacity.

After the expansion, vessels will be able to transit through the canal with up to 13,000 to 14,000 TEUs, compared to 5,000 TEUs now. A TEU represents a 20-foot equivalent shipping container. As of March 31, the expansion was 97 percent complete.

For apparel and textile importers, the expansion will allow larger cargo vessels and quicker transit to East Coast ports, allowing more flexibility and efficiency for apparel and textile importers that normally bring in goods from Asia through busy West Coast ports.

The draw for the first vessel took place this morning at the Panama Canal Administration Building. The Norwegian-Swedish shipping line Wallenius Wilhemsen Lines and China COSCO Shipping participated. The winner will incur all costs associated with the transit, including booking fees and other marine services.

The first commercial transit reservation was granted to a liquefied petroleum gas tanker, Linden Pride of Nippon Yusen Kaisha, NYK Line. The vessel has a length of 754.59 feet and a beam of 120 feet.

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