On July 27 the LYCASTE PEACE, a very large liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) carrier constructed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI), became the first ship to pass through the newly expanded Panama Canal as the waterway marked its first day in commercial operation. The vessel, which is owned by Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK Line) group and chartered by Astomos Energy Corporation, was built at MHI's Nagasaki Shipyard & Machinery Works and delivered in February 2003. The ship's design was rearranged by MHI for safe navigation through the newly enlarged Panama Canal.
Expansion work on the Panama Canal was completed on June 26, with commercial operation of the new waterway commencing the next day. The major maximum dimensions of the "Neo Panamax" ships able to pass through the new canal are 366 meters (m) in length overall (LOA), 49m in beam, and 15.2m in draft. Most significantly, the Neo Panamax specifications enable a substantially wider vessel than the "Panamax" ships that can navigate the original canal: 32.3m (and 29.1m LOA and 12.04m draft).
Presently the LYCASTE PEACE is en route to Japan carrying LPG loaded on the U.S. coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Until now, ships transporting cargo between this coastal zone and Asia that exceeded Panamax dimensions have had to either sail around the southern tip of Africa or transfer their load to smaller Panamax-compliant vessels at the Panama Canal. The opening of the newly enlarged waterway adds new leverage to efficient sea transport, and the LYCASTE PEACE has now become the first ship to reap this benefit.
Astomos Energy currently operates a fleet of 21 very large LPG carriers. All six ships owned by the company and 10 of its 15 time-chartered vessels were built by MHI at the Nagasaki Shipyard. Under its new medium-term business plan commencing in fiscal 2015, Astomos Energy is presently targeting expansion of the company's LPG transport structure and an increase in its gross LPG handling volume from the current 10 million tons per year (mtpy) to more than 12mtpy by fiscal 2017.
Toward achieving that goal, today three very large LPG carriers are under construction by MHI for Astomos Energy; the work is being performed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Shipbuilding Co., Ltd., a Group company launched in October 2015 succeeding to MHI's commercial ship construction business in the Nagasaki area.
At the same time, MHI is also cooperating in increasing the transport capacity of Astomos Energy's existing LPG carriers through necessary ship modifications.
Source: Mitsubishi Heavy Industry