The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) said that five “extreme-sized” panamax ships (more than 900´ in overall length) transited successively through the waterway’s Gatun Locks on August 26, 2004. This accomplishment marks the first time that five of these panamax vessels have transited Gatun Locks consecutively going southbound, toward the Pacific Ocean.
Eight locomotives and 16 wires were used to move the vessels through the Locks. Normally, six locomotives and 12 wires are used to accommodate regular panamax vessels. Total transit time for all of these ships to pass through Gatun Locks was estimated at five hours.
“The Canal’s achievement today is a testament to the tireless effort of our employees and their commitment to a more efficient, reliable and safe Canal. We are reaping the benefits from the investments made in the Canal’s permanent modernization program. Our purpose remains firm – to provide the best service for all of our customers,” said Administrator Alberto Alemán Zubieta.
Last year, the ACP purchased 34 new locomotives from the Mitsubishi Corporation as part of the Canal’s permanent modernization program. The ACP has been upgrading its locomotive fleet in a multi-year contract with Mitsubishi for the past several years. The contract entitled the ACP to exercise the unique option of assembling 16 of the 34 locomotives in Panama by ACP employees, with Mitsubishi supervision of the first two. Rarely done by Mitsubishi, the assembly in Panama provided ACP employees with a transfer of skills, as well as opportunities for training and technology education.
The Canal will also continue to replace the locomotive tow tracks at Gatun Locks through 2005. The tow track replacement will improve the Canal’s operations and will continually increase efficiency and capacity, thus contributing to maintain good Canal Waters Time (the time it takes a vessel to transit the Canal including time waiting for passage), even with the increase in traffic and tonnage that the Canal has experienced recently.