The newly expanded Panama Canal saw the largest capacity vessel — Hapag-Lloyd’s Valparaiso Express — to transit through its locks this week.
The 10,589 TEU, or 20-foot equivalent unit, Neopanamax containership was specifically built to take advantage of the greater capacity offered by the expanded Panama Canal.
The passage on Tuesday ushered in a new era of megaships that are now able to transit the canal since its inauguration on June 26 of this year. The new locks, which are 70 feet wider and 18 feet deeper than those in the original canal, are able to accommodate Neopanamax vessels carrying up to 13,000 to 14,000 TEUs.
This is expected to importers make more strategic decisions on whether to ship directly to East Coast Ports from Asian manufacturing hubs instead of through the West Coast and then transfer goods to land carriers.
The vessel began its transit at the Pacific-facing Cocoli Locks, following calls at ports in Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. After completing its transit through the Atlantic-facing Agua Clara Locks, the ship was set to stop at Manzanillo International Terminal in Panama and will continue its route to terminals in the Dominican Republic, the U.K., Germany, Belgium, France and Holland.
The Valparaíso Express is part of Hapag-Lloyd’s Europe-South America West Coast service, which covers a nine-week rotation, merging two previous services between Northern Europe and the West Coast of South America.
The containership measures 333 meters in length and 48 meters in width, and is the first of five new vessels in Hapag Lloyd’s new 10,500 TEU class specifically being built to take advantage of the additional capacity the expanded canal affords. When the final four ships are completed in April, all five will be able to transit the expanded canal.
In addition to its consideration of the expanded canal’s new dimensions, the Valparaiso Express was built with the highest environmental standards in mind.
The vessel was constructed with an environmentally friendly land-side shore connection that allows the auxiliary diesels on board to be switched off while in port. In addition, the vessel features a fuel-efficient 46,530-horsepower main engine with an emissions-reducing valve control and ballast water treatment units on board in accordance with the new International Ballast Water Management Convention that purify the ship’s ballast water without the use of harmful chemicals.
In addition, the technical specifications of this new ship will help reduce large quantities of sulfur oxide and nitrogen oxide emissions. By using the Panama Canal, the Valparaiso Express reduces more than 8,500 tons of carbon dioxide emissions on its round-trip voyage compared to other conventional routes that the vessel would have to use without the Expanded Locks, making the Panama Canal the most environmentally friendly route.
In recognition of its substantial emissions reductions, the Panama Canal awarded the vessel with its newly established Green Connection Award, an initiative created to recognize canal customers that demonstrate excellent environmental stewardship, and to encourage others to implement technologies and meet standards that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.