To main content

How the Panama Canal expansion is affecting global ship design and energy efficency


The purpose of this study has been to show that the Panama Canal expansion not only contributes to economies of scale, but also too enabling more energy-efficient designs that until now have been limited by the beam restriction but not by length or draught. At first sight, it was surprising that only a few dry bulkers have been designed to exploit the opportunity to save fuel and hence operating costs through building more slender hulls.
However, it is certainly no surprise that container and car carrier operators have introduced more energy-efficient designs utilizing the increased beam. What both these vessel segments have in common is that the leading actors, both size-wise and in their willingness and ability to innovate are based in parts of the world where sustainability and climate change mitigation take high priority.

At present, maritime transport is responsible for 3% of global CO2 emissions, and maritime emissions are forecast to increase by 150% – 250% until 2050, based on "business as usual" scenarios with a tripling of world trade. In response to these challenges, the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) and a Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP) were adopted at the 62nd session of MEPC in 2011. As the EEDI thresholds gradually becomes stricter, one of the options for meeting the requirements for dry bulk owners (and any other shipping type) will be to build more slender designs that use less fuel and hence emit less CO2 per tonne nautical mile transported. It is therefore not a big bet to predict that while containers and car carriers have been the early adopters, dry bulkers and other vessel types will soon follow and start to build wider and more slender vessels.


Academic article


  • Research Council of Norway (RCN) / 237917
  • Research Council of Norway (RCN) / 1394797





  • SINTEF Ocean / Energi og transport



Published in

Marine Technology and Sname News




Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers




42 - 46

View this publication at Cristin