Traditionally seagoing vessels have been designed and optimized to operate at maximum economic speeds based on hydrodynamic considerations. More recently, high fuel prices and increased environmental concerns have challenged this practice. In combination with the introduction of stricter energy efficiency requirements, this makes design improvement a necessity for all new bulk vessels. This is in contradiction to traditional bulk vessel designs, where the focus has been on maximizing the cargo-carrying capacity at the lowest possible building cost, and not on reducing the energy consumption. Moreover, historically the Panama Canal has been an important design criterion, while the new canal locks from 2014 will significantly increase the maximum size of vessels that can sail through the canal. This expansion will enable cost and emission reductions through employing larger vessels or by more cost and energy efficient designs being introduced. The present paper provides an assessment of what can be achieved by employing larger bulk vessels and by introducing more energy efficient designs with focus on a vessel’s beam, length and hull slenderness expressed by the length displacement ratio.

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