Waterway to double slots for fuel carriers as emerging economies gain appetite for gas.
U.S. natural gas companies are gearing up to bolster exports to Asia, taking advantage of new transit slots at the Panama Canal to deliver the fuel cheaply and quickly to the other side of the globe.
U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas increased 60% to about 22 million tons for the first eight months of the year, much of it going to Asia. Shipments to Japan jumped 60% as the country seeks to diversify its supply. Exports to Singapore, Thailand and South Korea surged as well, helping make up for a 90% plunge in American shipments to China caused by the trade war.
The canal was widened and deepened under a project completed in 2016. The Panama Canal Authority will soon double the number of daily slots for LNG carriers to four a day to accommodate the increased demand, top administrator Ricaurte Vasquez told Nikkei in Tokyo.
Most American LNG hubs are located on the east coast and along the Gulf of Mexico, meaning the Panama Canal is the shortest and cheapest route for shipments to Asia even with tolls. It takes roughly 32 days to reach Japan from the Gulf of Mexico through the canal, compared with 40 days along the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.
A total of 399 LNG carriers passed through the canal for the year ended September, compared to just 163 two years before, according to the canal authority. Though some slots remain unclaimed, it expects shipments to Asia to increase further. (November 8, 2019)
PANAMA - ASIA - LNG - SUPPLIES - IMPORTS - EXPORTS