CARTAGENA, Colombia – Valparaiso Express, the largest capacity vessel to transit the Panama Canal since the inauguration of new neo-Panamax locks in June, has arrived in Colombia’s Caribbean port of Cartagena.
The ship, owned by German-Chilean cargo container shipping line Hapag-Lloyd and christened on Dec. 8 in Valparaiso, set sail from that Chilean port on an inaugural commercial journey that has taken it to Callao, Peru, through the Panama Canal and to Cartagena on Thursday.
“This new vessel is state-of-the-art, which translates into navigational speed between ports, better freight rates, and much more connectivity with the countries with which Colombia has free-trade agreements,” said Alfonso Salas, manager of the Cartagena Port Authority.
The first of five neo-Panamax class vessels that will renew Hapag Lloyd’s fleet, Valparaiso Express also became the largest container ship to pull into Cartagena.
“The other four vessels will cover, among others, a route from Asia to Cartagena and from here to Europe,” Salas said. “This is a group of ships that will have the (Colombian) city as a hub for connecting with other shipping companies.”
The 333-meter (1,091-foot) long Valparaiso Express, with a 48-meter (157-foot) beam, has the capacity to transport a maximum of 10,589 standard containers, also known as twenty-foot-equivalent (TEU) units.
The company’s additional four neo-Panamax class ships will be christened during 2017 and, according to Salas, are environmentally friendly vessels that are equipped with technology to reduce fuel consumption.
The 9-week route covered by Valparaiso Express includes port calls in Valparaiso (Chile), Callao (Peru), Manzanillo (Panama), Cartagena (Colombia), Caucedo (Dominican Republic), Rotterdam (The Netherlands), London (United Kingdom), Hamburg (Germany), Antwerp (Belgium), Le Havre (France), Buenaventura (Colombia) and Angamos (Chile).
More than 600 ships – at least 500 of them neo-Panamax vessels, those in the 10,000-14,000 TEU range – have transited the Panama Canal since the inauguration of the expanded interoceanic waterway on June 26, according to official figures.
Prior to the expansion, the Panama Canal could handle ships with a maximum capacity of 5,000 TEUs.