The Panama Canal Authority could add more reserved LNGC transit slots in the future on the back of the increase in US exports, the agency said last week.
Delays of up to more than a week for LNGCs passing through without a reservation were seen from late October and have continued.
Last month, 53 LNGC canal transits were recorded, up from 35 in October and 48 in November, 2019, according to the agency’s data.
The delays have been blamed on a combination of factors, including fog, higher-than-average arrivals and additional safety procedures to prevent further coronavirus spread.
With US LNG export activity surging, and more capacity expected to come online through 2024, the Canal Authority said it wanted to look at long-term options.
"There is 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."
Two LNGC booking slots are currently available per day. On some occasions, up to four LNGCs have been allowed through, depending on the transit mix and operational conditions.
Under its current restrictions, the authority could handle up to two LNGCs northbound and one southbound each day.
Higher spot prices have driven a strong pickup in US LNG exports to Asia. However, long waiting times for unreserved vessels at the Canal have forced many US LNG cargoes to go east, thus avoiding the Canal altogether and adding to the overall voyage cost.
Delays caused by an increased demand for slots pushed the average transit time per vessel to about 3.6 days, a 66% increase compared to last year and exceeding the record waiting times seen last Autumn.
At least seven vessels took more than 200 hours to transit the Canal, with two taking over 10 days to pass through, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics data.