Monday, June 27, 2016

Is New Panamax Now Carriermax?

The Panama Canal can now handle larger ships. Can our super carriers traverse the canal now?

This is cool:

Panama has declared its century-old canal open to a new generation of supersized cargo ships after years of massive expansion works aimed at profiting from burgeoning US-Asia trade.

A giant Chinese-chartered freighter, baptized COSCO Shipping Panama especially for the occasion, made its way along the 80-kilometer (50-mile) waterway linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Its passage was to show off the third shipping lane and gargantuan locks built into the canal catering to vessels of its class, known as Neopanamax, or New Panamax, ships.

This will certainly aid our economy by facilitating sea trade between our west coast and east (and Gulf) coast.

How large can ships be now and go through the canal? This limitation has long been a problem for dividing our fleet. Small ships can use the canal but not our carriers. So reinforcing one coast from the other is an issue.

This is what can fit under the New Panamx standard:

[New] lock dimensions of 427 m (1,401 ft) in length, 55 m (180 ft) in beam, and 18.3 m (60.0 ft) in depth.

So how big are our Nimitz-class super carriers?

They have a length of 332.8 meters (317.0 m. at the waterline); a beam of 76.8 meters (but 40.8 m. at the waterline); and a draft of 11.3 meters for maximum navigation and a limit of 12.5 m.)

Does this mean that a Nimitz could fit, assuming the beam above the waterline doesn't bump into stuff along the side of the canal?

The new Ford-class might fit, too, because it is only a bit bigger.

That would be pretty cool, indeed. I'll have to keep an eye out on any mention of this possibility.