Norwegian Bliss Becomes Largest Cruise Ship to Transit the Expanded Panama Canal

Photo: Norwegian Bliss transits the Expanded Panama Canal, May 14, 2018. Photo: Panama Canal Authority

Norwegian Cruise Lines’ Norwegian Bliss on Monday became the biggest cruise ship to transit the Expanded Panama Canal.

The 168,000 gross ton cruise ship has a total length of 325.9 m (1,069.2 ft), beam 41.4 m (135.8 ft) and draft of 8.3 m (27.2 ft).

Norwegian Bliss was delivered by German shipbuilder Meyer Werft in March and, last month, began a 15-day itinerary from Miami, Florida, through the Panama Canal and along the west coast of North and Central America to its final destination in the Port of Los Angeles, California. The vessel will this serve the Alaska region until the end of the cruise season, after which it will reposition itself in the Caribbean.

Photo: Panama Canal Authority

The Panama Canal expects to receive approximately 236 cruise ships through the Panamax and Neopanamax Locks during the 2017-2018 cruise season, which officially began in October.

In April 2017, Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Wonder became the first cruise ship to transit the Expanded Canal.

Norwegian Bliss third ship of the Breakaway Plus class of the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) and has the passenger capacity of about 4,000.

Photo: Panama Canal Authority


Just one cruise ship scheduled to use new Panama Canal locks

Caribbean Princess

The new, wider locks on the Panama Canal will open June 26 with the first official transit of a cargo ship, but don’t expect much traffic through them from cruise ships.

Only one cruise ship has reserved space to move through the new locks, which are open to one cruise ship a day starting in June 2017, according to the Panama Canal Authority.

Princess Cruises’ Caribbean Princess is scheduled to make a series of thirteen 10-day cruises through the canal beginning Oct. 21, 2017.

At 118 feet wide, the 3,080-passenger Caribbean Princess can’t fit into the 110-foot locks that were opened in 1914. The new locks had been scheduled to open in time for the centennial but were delayed by disputes between Panama and the consortia of contractors that built them.

The new locks rely on tugs rather than electric locomotives to move ships through them. Doubts have been raised about the ability to fit the tugs in the locks along with the longest ships, but at 951 feet, the Caribbean Princess will have room to spare in the 1,400 foot locks.

For cargo ships, questions have also been raised about the record-low depths of water in Gatun Lake, which connects locks on the Atlantic and Pacific side of the canal. Depths hit 81.75 feet earlier this year. But large cruise ships typically need only about 30 feet to operate.

Most cruise ships transiting the Panama Canal will continue to use the old locks. Cruise lines have several ships operating in Alaska that would need the new locks to move to the Atlantic, such as Royal Caribbean International’s Explorer of the Seas and Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Solstice. But for now they are stationed year-round in the Pacific, moving to Australia, New Zealand and the Far East during the winter.

A spokesman for Carnival Cruise Line said Carnival doesn’t have any full transit Panama Canal cruises scheduled through April 2018.

Holland America Line recently launched the Koningsdam, the first HAL ship that will not fit through the old locks, but it is currently deployed in Europe during the summer and the Caribbean during the winter.

Expanded Panama Canal Seen Greatly Increasing Insurance Risk

The first trial run with a Post-Panamax cargo ship in the new sets of locks on the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal, in Panama City, Panama June 9, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

The first trial run with a Post-Panamax cargo ship in the new sets of locks on the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal, in Panama City, Panama June 9, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso
Thanks to for the update.

(The Loadstar) – Ahead of the official opening of the $5.25bn expanded Panama Canal this Sunday, the insurance industry is preparing itself for a big hike in risk from the increase in the value of insured goods as a consequence of the larger ships that will be transiting the waterway.

The new locks, which will create a third lane of traffic for larger neo-Panamax ships of up to around 13,000 teu, will allow more transits and potentially double the capacity of the canal, according to the Panama Canal Authority (ACP).

Andrew Kinsey, senior marine risk consultant at Allianz Global, said: “The expansion is significant because it impacts the size and frequency of vessels that call on the US east and Gulf Coast ports.”

A report by the insurer said that larger ships and more frequent transits could mean that up to an additional $1.25bn of insured goods would be passing through the canal in any given day.

“With the increase in size of vessels transiting the canal, you have a corresponding increase in operational, environmental and commercial risks,” explained Mr Kinsey.

The report noted that “bigger ships automatically pose greater risks” in that the sheer amount of cargo carried “dictates that a serious casualty has the potential to lead to a sizeable loss”.

The sinking of the 8,100 teu MOL Comfort after it broke its back in adverse weather off the Yemen coast in July 2013, is to date the largest containership to be recorded as a total loss.

The hull and machinery of the 2008-built ship were insured for $66m, but the biggest hit for insurers came from the 4,300 containers, where contents were reported to have had an insured value of between $50,000 and $1m, taking the estimated cargo claims to between $300m and $400m.

The 9,472 teu Cosco Shipping Panama, with a length of 300 metres and beam 48.25 metres will make the inaugural transit of the expanded Panama Canal on Sunday 26 June.

Prior to the expansion the maximum size of vessel able to navigate the canal was restricted by the 35-metre width of the locks allowing Panamax containerships of only up to around 5,100 teu to transit.

Toll revenues from Panama Canal transits were up 4.4% in 2015, compared to the previous year, at $1.994bn.

Since the canal first opened in 1914 more than 815,000 vessels have transited the waterway.

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