UPGRADES of the Panama Canal have already produced streamlined operations and increased capacity, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has announced.
Modernisations, valued at US$320 million, include an improved lock lighting, a new track and turntable system, the acquisition of five new tugboats from a Hong Kong company, an additional tie-up station and the replacement and reconstruction of the ACP's launch fleet.
According to the ACP, these latest improvements allow two additional transits per day and enhance the safety, reliability and efficiency of the canal.
Every night, the ACP moves large vessels through the locks, maximising the utility of the waterway. Panamax ships, the largest able to transit the canal, only have two feet of space on each side them in the locks. To help them transit safely, the ACP has repositioned its lighting system along the top of the lock chamber walls to shine down directly to the water for greater visibility.
The second tie-up station at Cartagena Hill serves as a staging area for Pacific to Atlantic ships waiting for Atlantic to Pacific vessels to transit. The station enables ships that have passed through the Pedro Miguel Locks to pre-position for the next stage of transit. The Cartagena tie-up station alone allows at least one additional vessel to transit daily.
"Since integrating the track and turntable system and tie-up station into canal operations, three additional vessels transit the canal every day," said ACP Canal Operations Miguel Rodriguez. "These projects have been very well received."
Five new tugboats, completing an order of eight from Hong Kong's Cheoy Lee Shipyards have now joined the canal's fleet. In 2008, the canal awarded an additional 13 new tugboats to Cheoy Lee to be delivered next year.
The new tugs come with an award-winning design, an output capacity of 4,800-horse power and a bollard pull of more than 60 metric tons.