The Panama Canal Authority announced a series of measure aimed at reducing delays during peak season, including reducing the number of reservation slots and suspending routine maintenance on locks.
The authority on Thursday said it has been experiencing delays caused by the rise in traffic, weather conditions and the mix in the size of arriving vessels.
The delays have been exacerbated by maintenance work at the Pedro Miguel and Miraflores locks, and by what the authority called "isolated incidents where a few pilots are taking advantage of the delays and are trying to send a message to Canal Administration to influence the?decisions regarding pilots' contracts and their compensation."
Reports said 250 Panama Canal pilots want a pay raise and formal work contracts and are protesting by providing limited assistance to help clear congestion along the 50-mile waterway.
The authority said it is still handling daily transits by 38 to 40 vessels, depending on their size.
To ease the delays, the authority said it has implemented the following measures:
-- It has postponed all routine maintenance work on the locks;
-- Assigned additional crews to the locks, including personnel for the tie-up locomotives and incorporated more tugboats and tugboat crews;
-- Assign tie-up locomotives at all locks and added locomotives and cable to deeply laden bulk carriers at all locks;
-- Increased the number of slots for ships waiting to transit by temporarily reducing the number of available reservation slots per day to 23 from 27;
-- Changed the schedule for non-commercial boats to limit them to six transits per day in each direction;
-- Increased from one to five the number of reserved transit swaps, which allow a carrier to exchange transits by its own similar-sized vessels if they have reservations within 21 days of each other.