Video: ILWU Panama Division Panama canal pilots voice safety concerns over new canal navigation

The Panama Canal Pilots’ Union, a part of the ILWU’s Panama Division,  is an organization representing 256 professional pilots whose main responsibility is the safe transit of vessels through the Panama Canal.

Pilots’ Union recently released a video showing some of the many challenges they will face when the expanded Canal opens to commercial traffic in early 2016.  The video also explains some of the meeting rules proposed by the Canal Authority in critical areas, like the Gaillard Cut, and which the pilots have regarded as “irresponsible.” The video features an interview with Captain Rainiero Salas, Secretary General of the Pilots’ Union.

From World Maritime News:

The long-awaited expansion of the Panama Canal has taken a somewhat different course from that initially proposed, according to the Panama Canal Pilots’ Union, and as such, may pose significant threats to the safety of navigation in the Canal.

In 2006, the Canal Authority determined that, in order to continue providing a quality service and to remain competitive, a Canal expansion was needed.  A Master Plan was designed, after spending millions of dollars in all sort of studies.

Many of those studies were used to determine the channel dimensions required for vessels of certain length and beam to safely navigate in the narrow channels of the Canal.

Today, the Canal Authority has radically deviated from their own proposal, without making a single hydrodynamic study to back up such decision,” according to the Union.

Captain Rainiero Salas, Secretary General of the Pilots’ Union, in reference to the proposed lockage procedure that uses tugboats instead of towing locomotives to move vessels inside the locks, said that this system is not as safe and expeditious as the one with locomotives which has been used in the Panama Canal for 100 years.

 

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