The Panama Canal said it enjoys an excellent safety record, which it credits mainly to the extensive training required of its pilots. To continue providing this service, training on board transiting vessels is essential.
Nevertheless, a number of recent reports have brought to the canal's attention the reluctance of several masters to allow Panama Canal pilots in training to maneuver their vessels under the supervision and control of qualified Panama Canal pilots as part of their required training program, the canal said.
Pilotage is compulsory in canal waters based on the Regulation on Navigation in Panama Canal Waters, Article 90, Section One, Chapter V, Pilotage. Additionally, Article 92 states that the pilot assigned to a vessel shall have control of the navigation and movement of such a vessel. Masters should be made aware; therefore, that Panama Canal pilots on board vessels are in control of the navigation and are not in an advisory capacity. This control does not cease while a pilot in training is executing maneuvers under the supervision of the qualified pilot. An integral and fundamental part of their training is precisely the hands-on part, which can only be performed by allowing them to execute maneuvers and handle vessels while transiting our waterway.