Last Thursday (Mar 3) the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) hosted an Open Forum, giving shipping line representatives and steamship agents the opportunity to discuss the Panama Canal's services once the expanded waterway begins operations. The Forum, titled "Exchange of Perspectives and Innovative Ideas to Improve Services for Future Challenges," included discussions about how the Canal can contribute to the development of Panama's logistics hub, among other topics.
"We have to work hand-in-hand to continue transforming Panama into a world-class logistics hub and better serve world maritime trade," Deputy Administrator Manuel Benitez said during the opening remarks. "This is an opportunity for our customers to discuss doubts and share opinions related to the services that we offer."
Executive Vice President of Operations Esteban G. Saenz then presented an update on the Panama Canal Expansion's progress, which is currently more than 96 percent complete. He discussed the many ongoing Canal initiatives taking place in order to prepare to safely and efficiently transit through the expanded waterway, such as continued training, transits without the use of locomotives in the existing locks and operating procedures for the safe transit of LNG vessels.
Participants engaged in discussion about retrofitting vessels to transit through the Expanded Canal, transits with tugboats, transit time, draft restrictions and the new booking system. Several Panama Canal executives were present to respond to their inquiries.
In addition to the Open Forum, attendees participated in a site visit to the new Scale Model Maneuvering Training Facility. The new facility features docking bays, model tug boats, and replicas of the new and existing locks, gates and chambers-all at a 1:25 scale. This facility will provide additional hands-on experience to pilots and tugboat captains to operate in the Expanded Panama Canal, which Forum participants were able to witness first hand.
"As a part of the Canal's ongoing commitment to maintaining an open dialogue with our valued customers, we will continue to host Open Forums," said Saenz. "These opportunities allow participants to partake in engaging discussions with ACP executives and to offer innovative ideas which help the Canal continue to provide world-class maritime services."