CANAL STRIKE DISRUPTS BUNKERING

CANAL STRIKE DISRUPTS BUNKERING

A strike at the ports on either end of the Panama Canal has caused a standstill in all port-related cargo operations, including bunkering, says a shipping agency in Panama.

Ship transits through the canal are not affected.Norton Lilly, the shipping agent for Associated Container Transport/PACE Line, said port workers on the Pacific side of the canal at Balboa and those who man vessels on the Atlantic side of the canal at Cristobal, walked off the job at 7 a.m. Monday over a pay dispute. The ship line executive said the port closing will cause some problems.

We're going to have to do a little bit of scrambling, said an ACT/PACE executive. There's no way to bunker. We have to plan ahead on being able to operate through the canal. It has made it rough but it has not eliminated the canal. We do not foresee any major difficulties in transiting.

He did say, however, that his agent in Panama has warned at the present time it is impossible to furnish vessels with services because limited launches are available. Norton Lilly reports that all cargo operations, bunkering, fresh water and other port functions are at a standstill.

While it is unknown how long the ports will remain closed, the agent said this situation is quite likely to spread to other government offices, including the telephone, water and power services.

The port workers are employees of the National Port Authority of Panama, a government entity. They are striking over non-payment of salaries.

While the port workers are not employees of the canal, certain of the canal's waterway facilities are within the two idled ports, said Michael Rhode Jr., secretary of the Panama Canal Commission in Washington, D.C.