The Panama Canal
Authority may add additional reserved LNG transit slots in the future to
address the increase in US exports via the shortest route from the Gulf Coast
to the key East Asia import market, the agency said Dec. 4.
Delays of up to
more than a week for LNG tankers passing through without a reservation began in
late October and have continued recently.
The delays have been blamed on a combination of factors
The delays have
been blamed on a combination of factors, including fog, higher-than-average
arrivals and additional safety procedures to prevent further spread of the
coronavirus. Looking ahead, with US LNG export activity surging, and more
capacity expected to come online through 2024, the Canal Authority wants to
look at long-term options.
Depending on the transit mix and operational conditions four vessels
on a given day accommodated
potential in the next few years to increase the number of LNG vessel transits,”
the Canal Authority said in a statement to S&P Global Platts in response to
questions. “We look forward to revisiting the issue in the middle of next year,
to see if any variation can be allowed, always maintaining the safety of the
LNG ship, other vessels in the traffic mix, and our personnel and Canal
infrastructure.” The Canal Authority currently maintains two booking slots for
LNG tankers per day. On some days, it has been able to accommodate four vessels
on a given day, depending on the transit mix and operational conditions.
The delays caused
by the increased demand for slots pushed the average transit time per vessel to
roughly 3.6 days, a 66% increase over last year and exceeding record wait times
observed last fall. At least seven vessels took more than 200 hours to transit
the Canal, with two vessels taking over 10 days to make the trip, S&P
Global Platts Analytics data show.
US LNG exporters have taken notice.
“We have had to
wait a few extra days to get a slot,” Cheniere Energy CEO Jack Fusco said in an
interview with Platts on Dec. 4.
Fusco said the
situation overall hasn’t impacted Cheniere much.
“We are hopeful
that we can work closely with them and get the right slots so people feel
comfortable that they are not going to sit there for an enormous amount of
time,” he said.