A Q-Flex LNG carrier has become the largest vessel of its type to make a laden transit of the Panama Canal.

Pronav Ship Management, the vessel’s manager, said the 210,000-cbm Al Safliya (built 2007) passed through the canal on 15 February 2023.

Managing director Martin Roolvink told TradeWinds that this was the first Panama Canal transit of a laden Q-Flex.

Roolvink said the passage took approximately 10 hours.

“The new Panama locks allow vessels of these dimensions to safely perform the passage,” he said. “Pronav conducted its standard pre-transit preparation planning, including a thorough passage planning and a risk assessment.”

The Nakilat-owned, Qatargas-chartered Al Safliya made history four years ago by becoming the first Q-Flex to pass through the Panama Canal — but the vessel was in ballast condition for that transit.

The Al Safliya, which has a length of 315 metres and a beam of 50 metres, made the 82 km east-west transit on 12 May 2019.

In April 2018, the Panama Canal Authority announced it would accommodate vessels up to 51.25 metres wide, effectively opening up the canal to the wide beam Q-Flex fleet.

Qatar has constantly been trying to expand the range of destinations and trade routes for its 31 Q-Flex and 14-vessel Q-Max fleet.

When the expanded Panama Canal was opened in 2016, the supersize vessels in the Qatari fleet exceeded the 49-metre maximum beam initially specified for the canal locks.

But the Panama Canal Authority had said that once it gained sufficient experience in handling larger vessels, it would consider allowing the transit of some of the vessels that slightly exceeded these dimensions.

But the Q-Max ships with their beam of nearly 54 metres remain too broad for the canal.

The 210,000-cbm LNG carrier Al Safliya (built 2007) inches through the Panama Canal with a cargo. Photo: Pronav Ship Management