AN official inauguration ceremony has been held to celebrate the opening of the US$5.25 billion expanded Panama Canal.
The event attracted a crowd of 25,000, canal employees, heads of state and dignitaries from around the world, canal customers, shipping and trade executives.
Construction of the new locks on the Atlantic and Pacific sides of the waterway commenced in 2007 and involved the excavation of 150 million cubic metres of material, creating a second lane of traffic and doubling the cargo capacity of the waterway to handle vessels of up to 14,000 TEU.
Said Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela said: "Canal users can be assured that we'll continue to support the Panama Canal Authority and our port operators to provide them a world class service and strengthen our logistics system by creating the necessary incentives and conditions to give added value to our inter-oceanic route."
The inaugural transit was undertaken by the neopanamax vessel, the 9,472-TEU Cosco Shipping Panama, which began its passage through the Agua Clara Locks on the Atlantic side of the country and concluded with its transit through the Cocoli Locks on the Pacific side. The ship set sail on June 11 from the Greek port of Piraeus en route to Asia.
Considered and analysed in 100 studies, the expanded canal will provide greater economies of scale to global commerce. It will introduce new routes, liner services, and segments such as liquefied natural gas (LNG).
"We are thrilled that we currently have 170 reservations for neopanamax ships, commitments of two new liner services to the expanded canal, and a reservation for the first LNG vessel, which will transit in late July," Panama Canal Administrator and CEO Jorge Quijano said.
Source : HKSG.