A new “highway” for the Panama Canal

Since the Panama Canal opened in summer 1914, more than 815,000 vessels have passed through on their way between the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. In 2015 alone, 12,300 vessels used this short cut to avoid the much longer journey around the Cape Horn. Using the canal, the journey from New York to San Francisco cuts out almost 7,500 miles (12,000 km).

 

With the opening of a third lane, now “New Panamax” vessels can pass through the 102 year old waterway. The New Panamax ships have a capacity of 12,600 teu (teu = A twenty foot long container. That’s roughly the height of a giraffe). The length of one of these containers is comparable to the height of and are about as long as four football fields. Andrew Kinsey , Senior Marine Risk Consultant at Allianz Global Corporate & Speciality (AGCS) , explains, “with the increase in size of vessels transiting the Canal, you have a corresponding increase in operational, environmental and commercial risks”. One fully-loaded 12,600 teu container ship for example can easily reach a cargo value of 250 million US dollar.

There is also a low level of risk associated with the 102 year old waterway. There is around 1 incident for every 6,000 transits, instead in Suez Canal it’s around 1 for every 1,450 transits. And it is trending further down. Over the last 20 years, the main causes of shipping incidents were vessel collisions, contact with walls and machinery damage and failure.

In an attempt to maintain the safety and reduce incidents, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) invested in training resources, prevention programs and contingency plans. One example is a training for captains because the Canal represents a “new shipping environment for many marines” according to Captain Rahul Khanna , Global Head of Marine Risk Consulting at AGCS.
Cross sectional image showing the Panama Canal from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. The length of the Canal is 51 miles.
Cross sectional image showing the Panama Canal from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. The length of the Canal is 51 miles.
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Bettina Sattler
Allianz SE
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