First-ever PH-owned ship passes through Panama Canal

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Iris Miko. Photo from Royal Cargo/MarineTraffic courtesy of @vesselslover.
  • Iris Lines’ Iris Miko recently passed through Panama Canal, making it the first ship owned by a Filipino company to successfully navigate the key international waterway
  • The 1,100-TEU ship entered the Panama Canal through the Atlantic side on May 26 and anchored at Balboa on the Pacific side on May 27
  • Iris Miko is scheduled to arrive in Manila around June 29 and join another Iris Lines vessel, Iris Paoay, in a new fixed-day weekly service

Iris Lines, Inc.’s Iris Miko recently passed through Panama Canal, making it the first ship owned by a Filipino company to successfully navigate through the key international waterway.

The 1,100-twenty-foot equivalent unit ship entered the Panama Canal on May 26 through the Atlantic side and anchored at Balboa on the Pacific side on May 27, Royal Cargo, Iris Lines’ parent firm, said in a statement.

Iris Miko was reassigned to trade between Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia until November 2022 when sanctions against Russia began, Iris Lines managing director Capt. Igal Dafni said.

Subsequently, the ship was routed by Zim Lines, with which Iris Lines has a charter agreement, via the Cape of Good Hope to the Caribbean, where it traded between Jamaica, Venezuela, Colombia, and Panama.

With the charter party with Zim Lines ending in June 2024, the vessel after crossing Panama and now the Pacific Ocean on the way to South China, will be redelivered back to Iris Lines and returned to the Philippines.

Iris Miko is scheduled to arrive in Manila around June 29 and join another Iris Lines vessel, Iris Paoay, in a new fixed-day weekly service covering the ports of Manila, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, and General Santos.

The new service is expected to be a collaboration with an international carrier, now allowed to operate domestically through a 100% foreign-owned Philippine company.

Iris Miko’s transit through the Panama Canal comes as more ships have been allowed to pass through following improvements in the Canal’s water levels. Severe drought since 2023 has affected the Canal’s water levels, prompting limitations in shipping traffic.

Royal Cargo noted that crossing the Panama Canal involves numerous risks and challenges.

Initially, Royal Cargo said the vessel did not have the required “Panama Canal Tonnage Certificates,” which had to be obtained from the canal authorities.

This involved an exchange of certificates and a survey by the Canal authorities. In addition, all international certificates had to be verified, and a bond had to be deposited by the charterers.

Finally, on May 26, the vessel entered the Panama Canal through the Atlantic side.

The canal pilot boarded at 3:00 pm, and the vessel entered the first lock (Gatun Locks) at 11:15 pm. On May 27, the canal pilot disembarked at 12 midnight, and the vessel anchored at Balboa on the Pacific side.

Iris Lines, formerly Iris Logistics, Inc., is the shipping arm of Royal Cargo Group engaged in domestic and international maritime and transport services.

READ: Iris Lines launching 2 domestic express services