Check out this drone video posted by Panama Canal Administrator Jorge Luis Quijano showing a neopanamax containership entering the expanded Panama Canal’s new Agua Clara locks from Gatun Lake on the Atlantic side of the waterway.
Administrator Quijano says the video illustrates the excellent work by Panama Canal ship pilots, but I actually think the video does a better job of showing the challenges of maneuvering ships through the locks using the new tugboat system.
The Panama Canal Authority has been under fire over the longstanding safety concerns related to the new piloting system, which as you can see uses tugboats instead of mules (locomotives) to maneuver ships into and through the locks. A report released earlier this year by the International Transport Workers’ Federation seemingly confirmed these concerns even further, concluding that the safety of maneuverability within the locks is compromised due to factors such as the locks’ dimensions and insufficient bollard pull of the tugboats under certain environmental conditions.
Unfortunately for the ACP, these safety concerns were realized in July when a large China COSCO Shipping containership suffered a large gash in its hull after hitting a wall while entering the Agua Clara locks during a northbound transit – basically the exact same maneuver that is seen in the video above.
But the ACP has mostly dismissed these concerns, and last weekend met with some of its biggest customers to reiterate their confidence in the Canal’s operations, the waterway’s stellar safety record (an incident rate of just 0.1% in FY 2015), and the Panama Canal Authority’s highly-trained workforce.
At this time it’s hard to say what the future will hold for the expanded Panama Canal. But in the meantime, let us know what you think of the new piloting system by sharing and commenting on social media.