Ever Max has to offload containers to get through Panama Canal

The high-profile transit of new containership Ever Max (IMO 9935208) through the Neopanamax Locks of the Panama Canal on Tuesday August 1st was meant to set a new record for the Panama Canal. Unfortunately the recent drought meant that what could have been the largest container shipment ever to transit the canal had a smaller number of teus than the record, partly due to a recent decline in traffic, and partly because the Panama Canal has imposed draught restrictions in order to save water during a prolonged drought.

Ever Max was delivered to Taiwan-based Evergreen in June 2023. It was deployed on the route between the Asian ports of Xiamen, Kaohsiung, Hong Kong, Yantian, and the North American ports of Savannah, Newark, Norfolk, and Baltimore. It had a nominal carry capacity of 17,312 teus.

The Ever Max was one of the largest containerships scheduled to transit the Panama Canal, with dimensions equal to the CMA CGM Zephyr which a year ago claimed the title of carrying the largest container load through the canal (16,285 teu).

The Triton (IMO 9728916), operating in 2019 for Evergreen (but now with Costamare of Greece), with a capacity of 14,000 teu, became the largest container ship to transit the Neopanamax locks. It remains the largest vessel by size, but no longer by capacity.

The Panama Canal Authority highlighted that the Ever Max was the largest capacity containership to transit the Canal. But it transited with just 13,345 teu. It had arrived at Balboa on the Pacific side of the canal at the beginning of the week with 14,745 teu – 15% under capacity – but its maximum draught exceeded the canal’s normal 50ft maximum for the Neopanamax locks. The Ever Max therefore had to reduce its load to meet the current 44ft maximum permitted draft.

Deputy administrator of the Panama Canal, Ilya Espino de Marotta, said that “when this historic transit is completed, the efficiency and solidity of the interoceanic highway is evident as a fundamental maritime transport route for global trade, despite the challenges imposed by climate change”. The AMP is using the transit to say that, despite the current drought limits, the Panama Canal remained competitive.

After completing the trip through the Canal on August 1st, the Ever Max was at the container terminal in Colon, reloading the boxes that were moved by train.

In late July, the Canal Authority said that it had decided it would be possible to delay further draft restrictions – maintaining the 44ft level for the next few months, “as long as weather conditions do not vary significantly from current projections”.

To maintain the water levels, the AMP reduced the number of daily transits through the locks, while also requiring some of the container ships to reduce the load and to have some of the containers transported by rail.

In normal times the Panama Canal can handle a maximum of approximately 40 daily transits. Its normal schedule consisted of 34 to 36 ships a day. The maximum has temporarily been reduced to 32 a day with 10 transiting via the larger Neopanamax locks and 22 in the older locks, which accommodate smaller ships and which result in less loss of reservoir-sourced water every time they are used.

2023-built, Singapore-flagged, 165,350 gt Ever Max is owned by Evergreen Marine Asia Pte Ltd of Singapore. It is managed by Evergreen Marine Corp of Taipei, Taiwan. It is entered with Gard on behalf of Evergreen Marine Asia (Pte) and for hull with Gard as claims leader on behalf of Evergreen Marine Corp (Taiwan) Ltd. As of August 3rd the vessel was moored at Colon, Panama Canal.