Japan’s Astomos names VLGC for first transit of expanded Panama Canal

By Vessels

Japan’s Astomos Energy has picked VLGC Lycaste Peace as the first commercial tanker to transit the expanded Panama Canal on June 27 for a delivery to Tokyo Bay in mid-July, a company official said Monday.

Astomos will carry US propane from Enterprise Products Partners under its term contract, the official said.

Lycaste Peace, part of Astomos Energy’s fleet on time charter, is currently in the North Atlantic bound for Houston, according to AIS data.

Japan’s Astomos names VLGC for first transit of expanded Panama Canal

LPG Tanker Lycaste Peace - Image: Dennis Adriaanse

By transiting the expanded Panama Canal, Astomos will be able to cut its voyage to around 25-30 days, compared with around 45 days for going around the Cape of Good Hope, the official said.

An Astomos Energy executive said May 13 its VLGC will be the first commercial tanker to transit the expanded Panama Canal on June 27, marking the start of regular commercial operations through the new locks.

Astomos Energy, 51%-owned by Japanese refiner Idemitsu Kosan and 49% by Mitsubishi, currently has 21 VLGCs in its fleet — six that it owns and 15 on time charter.

Of these, nine VLGCs — three new tankers and six converted vessels — are equipped to transit the expanded Panama Canal.

For Astomos, using the expanded Panama Canal would be its “strategic” option not only to diversify its supply sources but also to reduce its dependency on supplies from the Middle East, using US cargoes from its supply portfolio, Kaname Ichima, managing director and COO of Astomos’ international business division said May 13.

Over 2014-21, Astomos has term contracts to procure a total of 5.8 million mt of US LPG, all of which is propane. The company is now looking at a possibility of buying US butane in the future, Ichima said.

Source: Platts