New safety study of Panama Canal locks commissioned


The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) has selected Brazil-based Fundacao Homem de Mar (FHM) to assess the feasibility of maritime operations in the Panama Canal locks.

Under the deal, FHM will construct a mathematical model to analyse the manoeuvrability considerations for the safe transit of the locks.

In addition, the canal's operative draft has been temporarily reduced by the low level of Gatun Lake even before the installation of a fourth set of locks to serve bigger ships carrying 20,000 containers.

"Any inadequate operation could have a serious impact on the international maritime trade and also on the seafarers we represent."

The study follows after construction contractor Grupo Unidos por el Canal (GUPC) confirmed a leak on the Panama Canal's new Cocoli Locks in August this year.

ITF president Paddy Crumlin, who was present in Limassol to sign the commission, said: "The ITF is committed to using all means, including the most advanced mathematical models, in order to ensure that operations are safe for the tugboat crews and for all canal users.

"Any inadequate operation could have a serious impact on the international maritime trade and also on the seafarers we represent."

FHM foundation council member Severino Almeida said: "We have developed a series of services in our simulation centre; we are capable of making mathematical models of all kind of vessels, terminals and navigational channels in order to simulate the manoeuvrability and the feasibility of all maritime operations.

"We have decided to offer our solidarity and expertise to support our Panamanian colleagues and the ITF.

The Panama Canal extension, which is scheduled for completion next year, is expected to create a new lane of traffic along the canal through the construction of a set of locks, enhancing the waterway's capacity.

It is expected to double the canal's capacity, having a direct impact on economies of scale and international maritime trade.