Commercial Vessel Compliance

6/12/2015: Panama Canal expansion

Friday, June 5, the Coast Guard’s Liquefied Gas National Center of Expertise, or LGC NCOE, concluded a two-week exchange visit with the Panama Canal Authority to help prepare the Canal for their first Liquefied Natural Gas, or LNG, carrier transits once the Canal expansion project is complete. The Canal expansion is expected in the spring of 2016.

The work conducted during the visit was to ensure continued safe and secure vessel transits through the Panama Canal, which in turn will help ensure the economic security of goods and products imported or exported from the United States, as well as the rest of the world.

During the visit, the LGC NCOE, Coast Guard Office of Maritime Security Response Policy and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration reviewed the current and planned procedures and resources the Canal has in place for LNG transits. The team compared equipment, techniques, tactics and practices from the Panama Canal Authority, or ACP, to those used in the United States. The team assessed and worked with ACP personnel and equipment, toured the new lock system and transited through parts of the Canal.

The LGC NCOE hosted two members of the ACP to Coast Guard offices and LNG terminals throughout the United States to gain an understanding of how the U.S. ensures safe, secure and clean transits of LNG carriers. The visit included stops at the LGC NCOE in Port Arthur, Texas, Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C., as well as LNG facilities and Coast Guard Sector offices in Port Arthur, Texas, Baltimore, Maryland and Boston, Massachusetts to include Cheniere’s Sabine Pass LNG, Dominian’s Cove Point LNG and GDF Suez’s Distrigas terminal.

Panama Canal Authority

In the spring of 2016, the Panama Canal expansion project is expected to be complete allowing passage of post-Panamax ships through the Canal. Prior to this expansion, LNG vessels were unable to pass through the canal primarily due to size restrictions. The expansion project, coupled with the U.S. energy renaissance and expected emergence of LNG exports from the U.S., make the Panama Canal a key maritime resource to reduce time and cost of transit from the U.S. to markets in the Pacific. Once the Canal expansion project is completed the new lock system and canal waterways will be large enough to accommodate LNG ships. The ACP estimates that after the expansion project completion, approximately 86 percent of the world’s LNG carrier fleet will eventually transit the Panama Canal, with a potential of three transits per day.


The LGC NCOE is one of six nationwide national centers of expertise focusing on providing industry specific consultation and services to the Coast Guard and maritime industry. The LGC NCOE provides technical advice on matters related to liquefied gas in the maritime community; liquefied gas training and outreach opportunities; liquefied gas workforce forecasting and performance development; and technical expertise for the establishment of local and national liquefied gas guidance, policy and regulations. For more information on the LGC NCOE, visit their website.

This blog is not a replacement or substitute for the formal posting of regulations and updates or existing processes for receiving formal feedback of the same. Links provided on this blog will direct the reader to official source documents, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These documents remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.

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