The new Panama Canal is set to usher in a new era in shipping between South America and Europe. Upon completion, huge vessels of the post-Panamax class – capable of carrying up to 14,000 20-foot standard containers (TEU) – will be able to navigate this trade route. Until now, the upper limit has been just a bit below 5,000 TEU. In light of these changes, already in April 2015, Hapag-Lloyd have ordered five new vessels, which are set to be predominantly employed along South American routes . With a length of 333 meters, a beam of 48 meters and a capacity of 10,500 TEU, the vessels in the new “Valparaiso Express” class are tailor-made for the expanded locks and channels of the canal.
One stand out feature of the new vessels is their very high reefer capacity, as each of them has room for more than 2,100 of these temperature-controlled containers. “We expect reefer exports from South America to increase,” says Hapag-Lloyd Chief Operating Officer Anthony J. Firmin in underlining the importance of these special boxes. Products such as bananas, avocados, deep-frozen fish and grapes will fill the reefers on the journey from the west coast of South America to Europe. Going in the other direction will primarily be deep-frozen french fries, onions, potatoes, frozen vegetables and pharmaceutical products.
The finished ships are expected to be delivered between the fall of 2016 and the spring of 2017.