How Safe are Panama Canal’s Tugs instead of the Mules? – Doubts Allianz
Insurance company Allianz in its briefing examines the risk management impact of this expansion on the maritime industry.
Andrew Kinsey, Senior Marine Risk Consultant, AGCS says,“With the increase in size of vessels transiting the Canal, you have a corresponding increase in operational, environmental and commercial risks,”
Given the fact that the new locks will not be using the traditional “mules” but rather tugs which will be in the lock chamber with the vessel that is locking through there is the potential for increased contact with the lock walls, Kinsey believes.
“It is believed that the use of tugs rather than mules provides sufficient control over ships in the lock chamber, but it is a situation that will be monitored closely,” he adds.
Previously the International Transport Workers Federation have also expressed concerns over the increased use of tugs. On the other hand, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has assured the public that the process is safe.
The ACP’s estimates of how many tugs are needed has varied but the plan with five tugs is for one to work in front of the vessel, two behind it and two on the sides assisting.
At present, the only tugboats used are the two on the sides, as locomotives are used to position the vessel in the chamber.
However, Allianz did point out that the Panama Canal’s safety record is improving. While there were 97 safety incidents between 1996 and 2005, there were just 24 between 2006 and 2015. Most of these incidents involved collision with other vessels or with the harbour wall.
The report pointed out that the Panama Canal’s safety record has been consistently better than the Suez Canal’s. The Panama Canal has an approximate incident rate of around one in every 6,000 transits. For Suez, an incident occurs roughly once every 1,450 transits.
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Source: Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty