Friday, June 6, 2014

Neopanamax Vessel Chartered for Training as Freight and Passenger Vessels Await Canal Opening

Panama Authority Moves to 'Real Life' Training Schedule for Pilots and Tugboat Crews
Shipping News Feature

PANAMA – As the world of bulk and container shipping awaits the opening of the new, wider Panama Canal one can only imagine the amount of training which has to be undertaken by the pilots and tugboat captains who will be relied upon to escort and control the latest mega vessels. It seems the Canal Authority have taken education as far as they can using simulators and models and now are concentrating on the real thing with the chartering of a Neopanamax vessel to test both the professionals and the locks they will be required to negotiate.

Esteban G. Sáenz, Executive Vice President at the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) says that training has been used extensively since 2011 and in the past two years 186 of the required 280 Canal pilots have undergone training using the models at the Canal’s Center for Simulation, Research and Maritime Development (SIDMAR) but that the control of the full size craft was one of the best ways for pilots and tug skippers to work together and actually transit through the new locks, months before commercial traffic commenced.

The mathematical models and simulations at the SIDMAR facility have been updated with the new information regarding the sizes of locks, navigation channels and the Culebra Cut added in and 77% of the Panama Canal pilots have participated in manoeuvres with Neopanamax ships and more than 2,000 operations have been registered with these types of vessels at the ports located on both entrance of the waterway.

The Panama Canal expansion project will create a new lane of traffic along the Canal through the construction of a new set of locks, doubling capacity and allowing more traffic. The existing locks allow the passage of vessels that can carry up to 5,000 TEU. After the expansion the Post-Panamax vessels will be able to transit through the Canal, with up to 13,000 TEU. The Expansion will double the Canal’s capacity, having a direct impact on economies of scale and international maritime trade.

The Atlantic and Pacific dredging phases are completed and the balance of dredging now around 90% completed. The balance of works, including raising the operating level of Gatun Lake and constructing the new locks is around 70% completed. Most questions about the works can be answered in the FAQ section of the ACP site but getting an accurate date when ships will be able to access the new sections remains a little trickier, particularly after an earlier labour dispute. At last count opening had been rescheduled for April 2015.

Photo: Building work under way at the huge Atlantic Lock site.