Chinese shipyards have been urged to tap an opportunity thrown up by a project to widen the Panama Canal to design new vessels which use the waterway, according to an industry executive.
Work on the $5.25b expansion started in September, and is expected to be completed in August 2014, in time for the centenary of the opening of the world's most famous waterway.
The expansion will create a third set of larger locks of 55 meters wide against 33.5 meters now, and once completed is expected to result in the most cost-effective way to move freight in and out of the United States Midwest.
Shipyards in China, which is the largest exporter of sea-borne goods to the United States and a rising shipbuilding power, should quickly take advantage of this new opportunity, said David Tozer, business manager for container ships at Lloyd's Register, a global ship classification society.
More than 190 ships, each with a capacity of more than 10,000 TEUs, are now on the global order books, half of which have been ordered since May, sources said. Only a few of these vessels will not be able to transit via the widened canal, and most will be built by South Korean shipbuilders.
The Panama Canal expansion is expected to greatly change the pattern of sea-borne world trade, maritime experts said.