Tugboat Upgrade Bolsters Canal Capacity

Wednesday, September 07, 2005
Eight new Z-Tech tugboats are in store for the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) to bolster Canal capacity and provide enhanced towing power. As the number of Panamax size vessel transits increase, the new, more powerful tugboats will provide 82 percent more towing power to navigate these larger vessels. The new tugboats will replace eight of the Canal's current fleet of 24. Three of the new tugboats are scheduled to be delivered in December 2006 and five in January 2008. Commissioned by PSA Marine, the new tugboats were designed by Robert Allan Limited. Representing a breakthrough in tug technology, the Z-Tech, as the new design has been named, combines both the handling of a tractor-style tug and an Azimuth Stern Drive (ASD) tug. Each Z-Tech tug measures 89 ft. in length overall and 37 ft. in beam. The vessels will have a minimum bollard pull of 60 tons - 82 percent more towing power than the vessels the new tugs will replace. Moreover, the engines of the new tugboats have the capacity to accelerate from standstill to full ahead within 12 seconds, without heavy smoking. "We are extremely excited to acquire these technologically advanced tugboats. The higher horsepower and maneuverability of these tugs will reduce the time taken by vessels on their approach to the locks, thus increasing Canal capacity. The tugs will be invaluable in transiting the ever increasing number of Panamax size vessels that use the Panama Canal. They will be an outstanding asset to Canal operations," said Panama Canal Authority Maritime Operations Director Jorge L. Quijano. Part of the ACP's permanent modernization program, the new tugboats will enhance the waterway's safety, reliability and efficiency. Projects within the program include: the replacement of the locomotive tow tracks; the implementation and upgrading of the Automatic Identification System (AIS), the addition of a new launch; the Automated Data Collection System; and the deepening of the Gatun Lake and the Atlantic and Pacific channels.
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