Letters: Few delays for Panama Canal transits

Letters: Few delays for Panama Canal transits

An article in your publication Nov. 1 entitled, "Rail delays for Asia imports, no congestion for ocean carriers, terminals," inaccurately states that, at the Panama Canal, "delays of one to two days on all-water services from Asia to the East Coast are common, even when reserved transit slots have been booked." The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) wishes to correct this error as this clearly is not the case.

Those vessels holding reservations do transit on the day they request. Not only do these vessels transit on the day they have reserved, but the ACP is also required to complete their transits in a maximum of 18 hours or the reservation fees must be refunded. More than 99 percent of vessels with a reservation do complete their transit within the period stipulated; those that did not were affected by weather conditions, mainly fog. In fact most of them clock in a total Canal Waters Time (the average time it takes a vessel to navigate the Canal, including waiting time for passage) of less than 17 hours.

If vessels fail to secure a reserved slot in a timely manner, they may encounter some difficulty when they try to reserve at the last minute and could therefore experience some delay to transit on the same day they arrive, or shortly thereafter. Vessels without a reservation must transit in turn and after preference has been given to the scheduling of those vessels holding a reserved slot. The ACP recently began offering slots that become available due to last minute cancellations to vessels that had failed to obtain a reservation. These changes are all aimed at increasing the opportunity for vessels to obtain a reservation.

While the Panama Canal is in fact approaching maximum capacity, as indicated in your article, the ACP is moving forward with an aggressive permanent modernization program consisting of several projects to increase capacity and improve the level of service offered. Of the projects already approved, we can mention: additional widening of the reaches and the straightening of curves in the Gaillard Cut; the deepening of the navigable channels; improvement of the lighting at the locks; construction of tie-up stations in the Cut; the purchase of new and more powerful locomotives and tugboats, plus changes to the operational methodology to allow for the transit at night of vessels now restricted to daylight.

Rest assured that the Panama Canal is aware of the projected commercial demand and is committed to identifying and proposing any innovation that will allow us to meet this challenge and maintain the value that this "All-Water Route" represents to the maritime community.

For more information, please visit www.pancanal.com or contact us at mr@pancanal.com.

Jorge L. Quijano

Maritime Operations Director

Panama Canal Authority