On June 11, the container vessel COSCO Shipping Panama set sail from the Greek Port of Piraeus on its way to Panama to make history. The Neopanamax vessel is to make the inaugural transit of the expanded Panama Canal on June 26 after a 14-day journey.
COSCO Shipping Panama, a new containership that was launched in January, is 984 feet (300 meters) in length and 157 feet (48.25 meters) in beam, and has a container carrying capacity of 9,472 TEUs.
Originally to be named Andronikos, the vessel was renamed by China’s COSCO Shipping to pay respect to the people of Panama and for the honor of the inaugural transit. The ship was selected during a draw for the inaugural transit through the expanded waterway.
The vessel happens to have been built by Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries, the same company that constructed the valves that control the flow of water through the new locks of the Canal.
Panama Canal Administrator Jorge L. Quijano met with COSCO Shipping Panama’s Captain Jude Rodrigues and crewmembers prior to the ship’s departure.
“I had transited the Panama Canal many times before and it has been a great experience, but being the master of the first vessel to transit the expanded Canal is an experience of a century,” Rodrigues said. “The Panama Canal Expansion is a major event on itself and a milestone in global history.”
During the inauguration, COSCO Shipping Panama will transit Agua Clara Locks on the Atlantic side during the early morning and Cocoli Locks in the afternoon. The regular schedule of transits through the Expanded Canal will follow the next day, June 27.
“Over a hundred years ago, the SS Ancon made history as the first vessel to transit the Panama Canal,” Administrator Quijano said. “In a few weeks, COSCO Shipping Panama, the Panama Canal, and the people of Panama will change the face of global shipping and international commerce.”
The Panama Canal Expansion Program is the largest construction project undertaken in the waterway since its opening in 1914. Construction to double the waterway’s cargo capacity began in 2007.