Expanded Panama Canal 'at half capacity because of tug shortage'


THE expanded Panama Canal is functioning at half capacity because there are not enough tugs and tugboat crews, according to Don Marcus, president of the International Organisation of Masters, Mates & Pilots. 

"This is like building a massive office tower without enough elevators to get workers to their offices," he said, reports the American Journal of Transportation.

According to the Authority's own transit records, the new locks are operating at half anticipated capacity. 

A shortage of tugs and trained crews has limited the authority's ability to efficiently move the mega-ships through the locks. Instead of the anticipated 12 vessel transits per day through the expanded canal, only a maximum of six are being completed, he said. 

It is reckoned canal needs 70 to 90 of these powerful tugboats, but only 33 of the 46 tugs owned by the Panama Canal Authority are operational. 

Tug boat captains employed by the authority report that many of the canal tugs are not suitable to handle large containerships, according to Capt Marcus. 

Eight tugs purchased from China are poor performers and not fully used, and at least 10 other tugs are not operational, he said.

Harbour pilots worldwide report that neopanamax vessels have limitations on their ability to manoeuvre, which, when combined with their increased size, makes them extremely difficult to control. 

Said Capt Marcus: "They have a canal that's working at half of its capacity and is not generating the projected revenues. As a stopgap, they have hired a Venezuelan company to provide additional tugboats." 

In February, the Associated Press documented that many vessels were scraping the walls of the locks and wearing out the newly constructed walls and doors.

The Venezuelan company's employees do not go through the rigorous 2.5-year training and certification process that is required for captains employed by the canal authority. 

And, for the first time in the canal's history you will have these sensitive operations conducted by an outside Venezuelan company rather than direct employees of the Panama Canal authority, thus creating safety and security questions.

Source: Schednet 

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