ACP to charter post-Panamax ship for training in Panama Canal's new locks

Monday, June 02 2014 @ 09:12 AM EDT

Contributed by: Don Winner

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) will charter a Post-Panamax vessel before the opening of the expanded Canal to be used for training purposes in the Third Set of Locks, the ACP press release said.

The Executive Vice President of Operations Esteban Saenz reported that the Panama Canal will charter a Post-Panamax ship to train pilots and tugboat captains that will assist in transits through the new lane.

Saenz said the vessel will be used several months before the opening of the expanded Canal to test the new locks.

"This is one of the best ways to train our pilots and tug captains in the joint effort required to transit through the two new lock complexes of the expanded Canal," said Saenz. He added that since 2011 the Panama Canal has promoted workforce training for the operation of the expanded waterway.

Panama Canal Updates Simulator for Expanded Canal

Since 2012, a total of 186 of the approximately 280 Canal pilots have been trained at the Panama Canal's Center for Simulation, Research and Maritime Development (SIDMAR) using Post-Panamax model ships.

"SIDMAR's mathematical modelling and simulations have been updated and parts of the expanded Panama Canal such as the locks, navigational channels and Culebra Cut have been added to train our pilots and captains in such maneuvers," added Saenz.

Panama Canal Pilots Train with Post-Panamax Vessels

The Executive Vice President of Operations said that 77% of the Panama Canal pilots have participated in maneuvers with Post-Panamax ships and more than 2,000 operations have been registered with these types of vessels at the ports located on both entrances of the waterway.

In addition, Canal pilots have participated in theoretical and practical training programs in Berendrecht Locks in the Port of Antwerp, Belgium, which are of similar size and operation.

Editor's Comment: I've been contacted by Panama Canal pilots, who have expressed their serious concerns with the design of the new locks. They are experts with decades of experience, and several of them have told me they expect there will be "serious problems" with the planned scheme of using tugboats to move and maneuver these massive ships in the tight confines of the locks. The tugboats won't have the room or space to maneuver, to be able to use their powerful engines to move the ships, especially when the wind is blowing hard. The massive post-Panamax vessels that will be using the new locks present very large side profiles that will act basically as a huge sail. The predicted bottom line is - the ships will be hitting the sides of the locks. Both the locks and the ships will be damaged. And once the ACP figures out that the new scheme won't work when the wind is blowing from X direction over X miles per hour - then they will be forced to shut down operations and delay transits until weather conditions improve. Let's see what happens once they actually start to use it...

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