Expanded Panama Canal Locks Require a New Look for Old Equipment

2005

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In the original configuration of the Panama Canal Waterway, small locomotives are used to pull ships through the locks.  In the expanded section of the canal, tugboats are used to move the vessels along.

In both situations, lines from the train or tug run through openings in the ship’s hull called chocks and then are secured to bollards.  But those chocks and bollards have to be able to stand up to the forces experienced during a towing operation.  Plus, they need to be in the right spots on the ship.

A shipbroker with maritime experience said that every ship has chocks and bollards.  But they might not be strong enough to be pulled by the tugs or might not have been in the right position.

Capt. Guillermo Manfredo, executive manager for operations/canal operations captain notes that  up to four tugboats are used to maneuver ships into the locks.  Once in the locks, one tug is on the bow and one or two are on the stern, depending on the ship.The new requirements came with plenty of advance notice.

Back in August 2012, four years before the Neo-Panamax locks opened for business, “Vessel Requirement for the Panama Canal,” was published, detailing where chocks and bollards had to be placed.

Present scenario

Since the Panama Canal can now handle tankers as large as a Suezmax, most new-builds up to that size will have the necessary chocks and bollards in the correct positions.

That was the case when the Aegean Unity, the first Suezmax laden with crude transited the canal in August.  The ship first hit the open water earlier this year.

Some shipowners have taken it upon themselves to retrofit their vessels so the tankers can pass through the Panama Canal.

The shipbroker said that it would behoove people to get it done.

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Source: Platts

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