Panama Canal Security, Fees Set to Rise

Friday, April 19, 2002
In step with the rest of the maritime world, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) is making major investments to improve security and reduce the risk and vulnerability of its facilities. Because of these investments, though, which include expanding the Canal's electronic monitoring and tracking systems, a new fee will be assessed on all transiting vessels as of June 1, 2002. Among other things, improvements include adding new computerized systems and collecting data from all ships that arrive in Canal waters. The ACP is currently working on the Automatic Identification System (AIS), to be test- activated in 2002 and mandatory by July 2003. AIS will permit identifying and tracking all vessels before they enter Canal waters and during their transit. An additional 24-hour Security Control Center has been established for incident and emergency management, which will provide dedicated resources for internal Canal security personnel to work jointly with the national police and civil protection entities. Enhanced postings and patrols along the Canal and its reservoirs will also increase security. As part of this security policy, a program is being set up for the acquisition of new equipment such as launches and specialized vehicles for patrolling, alarm systems and additional closed-circuit television for existing Canal areas. The program also includes recurrent contracting of expert consultants in security matters to evaluate the risks and provide recommendations. The Canal has also invested in a Fire Extinguishing Foam System at Gatun Locks. This system is already in place in Miraflores and Pedro Miguel Locks, and is designed to provide an automatic system for spill and fire emergencies originated by inflammable substances. The foam controls and puts out fires by containment, cooling and suppression of vapors, and depending on the type of foam, it could suppress toxic vapors if necessary. In view of these major investments, the ACP has established a new security fee per vessel, per transit, based on net tonnage. Accordingly, the tariff will be implemented on June 1, 2002. For vessels weighing up to 3,000 PC/UMS tons, or 5,392 displacement tons, the fee is $50. Vessels weighing more than 3,000 PC/UMS tons or 5,392 displacement tons, will pay a fee of $400.
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