On Sunday, Maersk Line announced that it would “likely” add capacity through the newly enlarged Panama Canal by rerouting at least one service with larger vessels through the locks.
Many lines have been “cascading” smaller, older ships onto less busy routes as new ultra large container vessels of 18,000 TEU or more take over the largest trades (like Asia-Europe). The new locks can accommodate container ships to 13,000 TEU – as opposed to 5,000 TEU in the old locks – making ships like the 9,500 TEU Cosco Shipping Panama (ex name Andronikos) good candidates for new strings from Asia to the USEC or to the east coast of Latin America.
“As a long-time customer, Maersk Line welcomes the expansion of the Panama Canal. We look forward to seeing our larger vessels pass through the new locks. It is a very positive development for trade, Panama and the region, and of course the shipping lines that transit this important corridor every day,” says Søren Toft, Chief Operating Officer, Maersk Line. The line already expects more than 400 transits and 400,000 containers through the old and new canal locks over the course of 2016.
Maersk Line also weighed in on the question of whether the new locks would have an immediate impact on U.S. East Coast ports. “Since 60 percent of the Panama Canal traffic either begins or ends in US ports it will have a direct, notable impact on the trade between Asia and the U.S. East Coast,” the line said. Analysts have suggested that since access to terminals at the Port of NY/NJ (the East Coast’s largest) is limited by air draft until a bridge is raised next year, the lines would not immediately deploy the larger “New Panamax” vessels, and would wait until the higher-capacity ships could call at a greater range of East Coast ports.
Anders Boenaes, Maersk Line’s head of network, did not echo these predictions. “The expansion provides us with more options, most notably to our Asia to South America and Asia to US East Coast routes. It is likely that Maersk Line will make increased use of the expanded Panama Canal and adjust one or more services with larger vessels to begin sailing through its new locks,” he said.