Until the opening of the expanded Panama Canal, because of their size, LNG ships had to go the long way around through the Southern Ocean.
On 25 July, Royal Dutch Shell’s LNG carrier Maran Gas Apollonia became the first large LNG carrier to pass through the new locks to transit from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The 105,773 GT, 290 metre Greek Flagged tanker has a capacity of 161,870m³ and was laden with gas lifted at Cheniere-owned Sabine Pass LNG facility on the Sabine Pass River on the border between Texas and Louisiana in Cameron Parish, Louisiana.
This first for the waterway and milestone for the gas shipping industry, comes just five months after the US began exporting shale gas. The surge in natural gas production led to billions of dollars invested in building LNG export terminals, transforming the United States from an importer of LNG to an exporter.
By 2019, the US is expected to be pumping 60 million tonnes of LNG each year.