East Asia, which imports more liquefied natural gas than any other region of the world, is preparing to receive its first supplies from America's shale bounty.

A tanker that loaded LNG at Cheniere Energy Inc.'s export terminal in Louisiana is bound for the Far East, according to an official at tanker owner Maran Gas Maritime Inc. who asked not to be identified because he is not authorized by the company to speak on the record. The company that chartered the vessel, Royal Dutch Shell PLC, has yet to say exactly which country and buyer will receive the cargo, he said.

The shipment to East Asia is a long time coming for a market once pegged as the most likely destination for U.S. shale gas. Instead, most of the cargoes that have left Cheniere's LNG terminal since exports began in February have landed in closer-by Latin America. An expansion of the Panama Canal stands to change that, with more than half of U.S. LNG export capacity slated to be online by 2020 contracted to Asian buyers, based on a Bloomberg New Energy Finance analysis.