The Panama Canal Authority (PCA) has increased the waterway’s maximum allowable length for commercial and non-commercial vessels transiting the Neopanamax Locks.
The PCA said the maximum length overall (LOA) for regular transits of the Neopanamax Locks is 370.33 metres, an increase from 367.28 metres.
The increase means that now 96.8% of the world’s fleet of containerships can transit the Panama Canal, shortening routes and benefiting economies around the world.
Panama Canal Administrator Ricaurte Vásquez Morales said, “This change was made possible by our team’s experience operating the Neopanamax Locks safely and reliably over the past five years.”
The extended LOA will provide shipping lines with greater flexibility in making decisions for the deployment and construction of vessels with greater capacity that can transit through the Panama Canal.
This announcement comes after a series of trial transits to confirm the safety of operations. They included the 2019 transit of Evergreen’s 369-meter-long Triton, which became the largest vessel in dimension and container cargo capacity to transit the Panama Canal since the inauguration of the Neopanamax Locks in June 2016.
Since then, other ships with the same dimensions and container cargo capacity have also transited the waterway, including the Talos and Theseus, among others.
In addition to this increased length overall, the Canal has announced that it is now offering 15.24 meters (50 feet) draft, the highest level allowed at the waterway. Increased rainfall and successful water management at the Gatun Lake had kept the draft at 14.93 meters (49 feet) since April 2021.
The PCA said that given the shorter traveling distance and larger capacity the waterway offers, the waterway reduces vessels’ fuel consumption and therefore emissions, having a positive impact on the reduction of global greenhouse gases compared to other routes.