Japan’s top LPG supplier Astomos Energy said it will launch at the end of March the VLGC Sumire Gas, which will be able to transit the expanded Panama Canal.
However, Astomos Energy has not decided on the destination for the maiden voyage of the new time-chartered 82,200 cu m LPG tanker, a company official said.
This is Astomos Energy’s third launch of a VLGC equipped to transit the expanded Panama Canal.
The Panama Canal Authority, or ACP, expects to commission the expanded canal by early July, following the completion of 97% of the entire project and 96% of the third set of locks.
The expanded canal will halve the travel time for vessels of up to 150,000 dwt from the US Gulf to Northeast Asia, a trade route that is expected to see increased volumes of naphtha, gasoline blending components and crude after the export ban for the latter was lifted in December.
“The Panama Canal expansion will open end-June to early July,” Jose Ramon Arango, senior specialist for liquid bulk segment at ACP, said Tuesday in a presentation at the 2016 Connecticut Shipping Association conference.
Astomos Energy has seven other new carriers on order that will be able to transit the expanded Panama Canal scheduled to be delivered over 2016-2019. These vessels will be on time charter.
To date, Astomos Energy currently has 21 VLGCs in its fleet — six that it owns and 15 on time charter, and one Panamax tanker, the Ronald N, the company said Wednesday.
Astomos Energy buys and supplies around 10 million mt/year of LPG and plans to expand that to around 12 million mt/year by 2017.
The Company is 51%-owned by refiner Idemitsu Kosan and 49% by Mitsubishi.