As work on the expansion project progresses, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) continues to modernize and upgrade the existing waterway, resulting in streamlined operations and increased capacity. Recent modernizations, valued at $320m, include an improved lighting system in the Canal’s locks; a new track and turntable system; the acquisition of five new tugboats; an additional tie-up station; and, the replacement and reconstruction of the ACP’s launch fleet. According to the ACP, these latest improvements allow two additional transits per day and enhance the safety, reliability and efficiency of the Canal.
Every night, the ACP moves large vessels through the Canal locks, maximizing the utility of the waterway. Panamax ships, the largest vessels able to transit the Panama Canal, have only two feet of space on each side to travel through the Canal’s lock chambers. To help Panamax ships transit safely, the ACP repositioned its lighting system (pictured left) along the top of the locks’ chamber walls to shine down toward the water and provide greater visibility.
Additional upgrades enhancing the safety and efficiency of the Canal include the ACP’s new track and turntable system and second tie-up station. The track and turntable system allows locomotives to reach and assist vessels traveling through the Canal’s Gatun locks. Prior to the system, vessels stopped mid-transit to exchange locomotives. Now, they travel through the locks with the same set of locomotives, cutting transit times and allowing two additional Panamax ships to navigate the Canal per day.
The second tie-up station, located at Cartagena Hill, serves as a staging area for northbound (Pacific to Atlantic) ships waiting for southbound ships (Atlantic to Pacific) to transit the Canal. The station enables ships that have passed through the Pedro Miguel Locks to pre-position for the next stage of transit. The Cartagena tie-up station alone allows at least one additional vessel to transit the Canal on a daily basis.
“Since integrating the track and turntable system and tie-up station into Canal operations, three additional vessels transit the Canal every day,” said ACP Canal Operations Captain Miguel Rodríguez. “These projects have been very well received. Canal customers are afforded a cost-effective and reliable route. Additionally, Canal workers are able to provide smooth and continuous service.”