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Panama Canal welcomes transit of largest vessel by cargo capacity

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CMA CGM’s Zephyr containership has become the vessel with the largest cargo capacity to ever transit the Panama Canal.

The 16,285 TEU boxship completed its return trip through the Expanded Canal’s Neopanamax Locks on July 1, after calling at the U.S. ports of New York and Savannah. The Zephyr sailed back southbound through the canal, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, en route to Qingdao, China.

While the Zephyr is now the largest by cargo capacity to transit the waterway, Evergreen’s Triton, which measures 51.2 meters in beam and 369 meters in length, holds the record for the largest vessel by dimension.

The canal was expanded with a third lane back in 2016, and the Neopanamax Locks were initially expected to serve vessels with a maximum of 12,600 TEUs. However, the threshold has been surpassed considerably as experience in operating the locks grew.

“There’s no better way to mark the anniversary of the Expanded Canal than with this month’s Zephyr transit, which exemplifies the continued growth potential that it offers for our clients,” said Panama Canal Administrator Ricaurte Vásquez Morales.

As informed, implementation of various water conservations efforts, coupled with increased rainfall in the canal watershed, has allowed the Panama Canal to offer a 15.24 meters draft (50 feet) since May, the highest permitted for vessels transiting the Neopanamax Locks.

The Panama Canal’s data shows that the waterway contributed to the reduction of 16 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent emissions in 2021, in comparison to the most likely alternative routes.

The waterway managed to save 3 million tons of C02 more than in 2020. The savings are said to be equivalent to the amount produced by 3.2 million passenger vehicles driven in one year.

The annual data was calculated by the Panama Canal’s CO2 Emissions Savings Dashboard, which tracks the total CO2 emissions that vessels save by sailing through the canal.

According to the canal authority, 180 maritime routes converge through the waterway, linking 1,920 ports across 170 countries. Containerships are the leading users of the third set of locks, contributing 45 percent of all transits.

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