What is NeoPanamax Bulk Carrier?

What is NeoPanamax Bulk Carrier?

NeoPanamax refers to the size limit of ships that can travel through the expanded Panama Canal. The new locks, which opened in 2016, allow larger ships to transit through the canal. These larger vessels, known as “NeoPanamax” ships, are up to 366 meters (1,200 feet) in length, 49 meters (161 feet) in width, and 15.2 meters (50 feet) in depth.

A NeoPanamax bulk carrier, therefore, is a type of cargo ship that conforms to these size limitations. Bulk carriers are designed to transport unpackaged bulk cargo, such as grains, coal, ore, and cement in its cargo holds. The introduction of the NeoPanamax standard has allowed for more efficient shipping of such goods, as bulk carriers built to this standard can carry significantly more cargo than those that were limited by the previous Panamax dimensions.


Panama Canal Authority (ACP) Maximum Allowed Bulk Carrier

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) announced that effective March 1, 2023, the maximum authorized draft allowed for vessels transiting the Neopanamax locks will be 15.09 m (49.5 feet) TFW (Tropical Fresh Water).

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) sets the maximum allowable dimensions for ships passing through the Panama Canal. After the expansion of the canal in 2016, these dimensions, now classified as NeoPanamax, are as follows:

  1. Maximum Length: 366 meters (1201 feet)
  2. Maximum Width (beam): 49 meters (160.7 feet)
  3. Maximum Draft: 15.2 meters (49.9 feet) in TFW (Tropical Fresh Water)
  4. Maximum Height Above Water: 57.91 meters (190 feet)

These dimensions represent the maximum allowable size for any ship, including bulk carriers, to ensure that they can safely and effectively transit through the Canal’s locks. Ships meeting these dimensions are commonly referred to as NeoPanamax vessels.

It’s worth noting that actual restrictions can vary depending on several factors, including the ship’s design and the current conditions of the canal and its locks. Therefore, the actual maximum size can sometimes be smaller than the NeoPanamax standard.


What is TFW (Tropical Fresh Water) in Ship Chartering?

In the context of ship chartering and shipping, TFW stands for Tropical Fresh Water. It refers to the water condition in which a ship’s draft is measured.

The draft of a ship is the vertical distance between the waterline and the bottom of the hull (keel), and it dictates how much of the ship is submerged under water. This is a crucial measure as it helps determine if a ship can safely clear shallow waters, like those in canals or ports.

The density of the water in which a ship is sailing affects its draft. Saltwater is denser than freshwater, so a ship will sit lower in freshwater compared to saltwater. Similarly, water in the tropics is less dense than colder water due to its higher temperature, so a ship will sit lower in cold water compared to warm water.

Therefore, the term “Tropical Fresh Water” refers to warm, freshwater conditions, which will cause a ship to have a greater draft (i.e., sit lower in the water) compared to colder, saltwater conditions.

In the context of the Panama Canal, the canal’s locks are filled with freshwater from Gatun Lake, and the region’s tropical climate means the water is relatively warm. Therefore, the Panama Canal Authority gives maximum allowable draft measurements in Tropical Fresh Water (TFW) to ensure safe passage through the canal.



NeoPanamax Bulk Carrier Employment and Cargo

NeoPanamax bulk carriers, being larger than their Panamax counterparts, are employed to transport large volumes of bulk cargo over long distances. These vessels are designed to take full advantage of the expanded dimensions of the new locks in the Panama Canal, allowing for more efficient shipping routes between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The types of cargo carried by NeoPanamax bulk carriers include:

Dry Bulk Commodities: These are typically bulk cargoes that are dry and loose. Examples include grains (like wheat, corn, and soybeans), coal, iron ore, bauxite, phosphates, and other similar commodities.

It’s important to note that the specific cargo a NeoPanamax bulk carrier can transport depends on its design. Some are specifically designed for certain types of cargo—for instance, some bulk carriers are built to carry heavy loads like iron ore, while others might be designed for lighter, voluminous cargoes like grains.

NeoPanamax bulk carriers, due to their size and cargo capacity, are typically employed on long-haul trade routes. For instance, they might be used to transport coal or iron ore from Australia to China, grains from the U.S. Midwest to Asia, or bauxite from Brazil to the aluminum smelters in the Middle East.


NeoPanamax Bulk Carrier Specifications

NeoPanamax bulk carriers are designed to maximize the increased size allowances provided by the expanded Panama Canal, which was completed in 2016. The expanded canal allows for vessels with a greater length, width (beam), and depth (draft) than was previously possible, leading to the creation of the NeoPanamax class of vessels.

Please note that the specific dimensions can vary somewhat depending on the exact design and requirements of the ship, but the following are some typical specifications for a NeoPanamax bulk carrier:

  1. Length Overall (LOA): Up to 366 meters (1,200 feet) – This is the maximum length allowed for ships passing through the new Panama Canal locks.
  2. Beam (Width): Up to 49 meters (161 feet) – This is the maximum width allowed for ships passing through the new Panama Canal locks.
  3. Draft: Up to 15.2 meters (50 feet) – This is the maximum draft allowed for ships passing through the new Panama Canal locks.
  4. Height: Up to 57.91 meters (190 feet) above the waterline – This is the maximum air draft to ensure safe passage under the Bridge of the Americas at the Pacific end of the Panama Canal.
  5. Deadweight tonnage (DWT): Typically between 120,000 to 170,000 DWT for NeoPanamax bulk carriers. The DWT is the maximum weight that a ship can safely carry including its cargo, fuel, water, crew, provisions etc.
  6. Gross Tonnage (GT): Typically around 80,000 to 120,000 GT. The GT is a measure of the overall internal volume of the vessel where one gross ton corresponds to 100 cubic feet.
  7. Net Tonnage (NT): Typically around 40,000 to 60,000 NT. The NT is a measure of the useful capacity of the vessel for cargo and passengers.
  8. Cargo Capacity: Varies depending on the specific design of the vessel, but NeoPanamax bulk carriers are typically designed to carry large volumes of bulk commodities such as grain, coal, iron ore, etc. The cargo holds are often equipped with self-loading and unloading systems to speed up the loading/unloading process.
  9. Speed: Typically around 13 to 15 knots. The exact speed can vary depending on the ship’s design, load, and operating conditions.
  10. Fuel Type: Most NeoPanamax bulk carriers run on low-sulphur fuel oil (LSFO) or marine gas oil (MGO), in compliance with International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulations. Some new designs are being developed with dual fuel capabilities, allowing them to use liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a cleaner-burning alternative.
  11. Crew: The crew size can vary, but a typical bulk carrier might have a crew of 20 to 25.

Please note that these specifications are typical but not definitive. The exact specifications for a particular vessel can vary based on a number of factors, including the shipbuilder’s design, the requirements of the owner or operator, and the intended cargo or trade route.


What is the difference between NeoPanamax and Panamax? NeoPanamax Vs Panamax

Panamax and NeoPanamax are terms that refer to the size limits for ships traveling through the Panama Canal, a significant maritime route connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The terms derive from the maximum measurements of a vessel that the canal can accommodate.

  1. Panamax: The term “Panamax” was established to define the maximum size of a ship that could fit through the original locks of the Panama Canal, which were completed in 1914. The size limit for a Panamax vessel is generally held to be 294.13 meters (965 feet) in length overall, 32.31 meters (106 feet) in width, and 12.04 meters (39.5 feet) in draft (depth), with a cargo volume limit of approximately 52,500 DWT (deadweight tonnage). These dimensions were determined based on the size of the canal’s original lock chambers.
  2. NeoPanamax: The term “NeoPanamax” came into use after the Panama Canal underwent an expansion project completed in 2016, which created a new set of locks capable of handling larger ships. A NeoPanamax vessel is typically defined as having a maximum length of 366 meters (1,200 feet), a width of 49 meters (160 feet), and a draft of 15.2 meters (50 feet), with a cargo volume up to about 120,000 DWT to 180,000 DWT. These larger ships are also sometimes referred to as “Post-Panamax” vessels.

The creation of the NeoPanamax size has allowed for more extensive global shipping operations, as these larger vessels can carry significantly more cargo than their Panamax counterparts. This has had significant implications for global trade, as it allows for larger volumes of goods to be transported more efficiently.

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) announced that effective March 1, 2023, the maximum authorized draft allowed for vessels transiting the Neopanamax locks will be 15.09 m (49.5 feet) TFW (Tropical Fresh Water). Please check the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) web page for more information. www.panamacanal.com


What is the largest bulk carrier that can go thru New Panama Canal Locks?

The New Panama Canal Locks, inaugurated in 2016, are designed to accommodate New Panamax ships. The maximum size of a vessel that can use the canal is referred to as New Panamax. These dimensions are:

  • Length: 366 meters (1,200 feet)
  • Width: 49 meters (161 feet)
  • Draft: 15.2 meters (49.9 feet) in tropical fresh water
  • The maximum cargo capacity for a New Panamax ship is typically about 120,000 DWT (Deadweight tonnage) for bulk carriers.

These measurements are substantially larger than the original Panamax standards, allowing a new generation of larger ships to take advantage of the canal. However, please note that while these are the official maximum dimensions, in practice many ships are slightly smaller to allow for a margin of error and for the potential of the water level dropping.

We would recommend checking the latest updates from the Panama Canal Authority for the most accurate information. www.panamacanal.com



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