The Panama Canal recently welcomed the largest-capacity vessel to date to transit the expanded locks: Hapag-Lloyd’s Valparaiso Express. The 10,589 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) Neopanamax containership was specifically built to take advantage of the greater capacity offered by the expanded Panama Canal. Earlier in December, the waterway also welcomed its 500th transit of a Neopanamax ship.
The latest passage ushers in a new era of mega-ships that are now able to transit the expanded canal since its inauguration on June 26, 2016, the Panama Canal Authority said. The new locks, which are 70 ft. wider and 18 ft. deeper than those in the original canal, are able to accommodate Neopanamax vessels carrying up to 13,000-14,000 TEUs.
The vessel began its transit at the Pacific Ocean-facing Cocoli Locks, following calls at ports in Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. After completion of its transit through the Atlantic Ocean-facing Agua Clara Locks, the ship was schedule to stop at Manzanillo International Terminal in Panama and then continue its route to terminals in the Dominican Republic, U.K., Germany, Belgium, France and Netherlands.
The Valparaíso Express is part of Hapag-Lloyd’s Europe – South America West Coast service, which covers a nine-week rotation and merges two previous services between Northern Europe and the west coast of South America.
The containership measures 333 m in length and 48 m in width and is the first of five new vessels in Hapag Lloyd’s new 10,500 TEU class, which are being built specifically to take advantage of the additional capacity the expanded Panama Canal affords. When the final four ships are completed in April 2017, all five will be able to transit the expanded canal.
Environmental contributions recognized
In addition to its consideration of the Panama Canal’s new dimensions, the Valparaiso Express was built with the highest environmental standards in mind.
The vessel was constructed with an environmentally friendly landside shore connection, which allows the auxiliary diesels on board to be switched off while in port. Additionally, the vessel features a fuel-efficient, 46,530 hp main engine with an emissions-reducing valve control; the ballast water treatment units on board are in accordance with the new International Ballast Water Management Convention and purify the ship’s ballast water without the use of harmful chemicals.
The technical specifications of the new ship will also 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 roundtrip voyage compared to other conventional routes the vessel would have to use without the expanded locks, making the Panama Canal the most environmentally friendly route.
In recognition of this substantial emissions reduction, 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.