Panama Canal safety in focus after 3rd crash

LESS ROOM TO MANOEUVRE? The expanded Panama Canal allows ships three times bigger to sail through. But recent collisions raise doubts about the new design.


    Jul 27, 2016

    Panama Canal safety in focus after 3rd crash


    A CHINESE container ship hit a wall of the new lane of the Panama Canal, a Canal Authority official and a local ship agent said on Monday.

    It is the third such incident since the expanded waterway opened one month ago amid design concerns.

    Thomson Reuters ship tracking data showed the Xin Fei Zhou, owned by China Shipping Container Lines, was anchored outside the canal.

    A photo published by online news site showed that it had a sizeable gash in its hull.

    The latest incident comes after two other vessels reportedly made contact with the newly expanded canal since the US$5.4 billion (S$7.3 billion) project was inaugurated on June 26.

    The expansion, which triples the size of ships that can pass through the waterway, has drawn criticism from industry groups that claim its design makes the transit of larger ships unsafe for the vessels and workers.

    The Lycaste Peace, the first LPG tanker to pass through the new section of the canal, ripped off a fender during a collision in late June, causing some minor damage to the railing of the ship.

    The Panama Canal Authority has confirmed that the Cosco Shipping Panama, the container ship that made the inaugural journey through the canal, also made contact with its fenders.

    But a spokesman for the authority said was normal.

    While contact with fenders may occur in transit, the three events are likely to renew concerns about the safety of moving expensive vessels through the expanded canal, which experts say has less space for manoeuvres than the original locks.

    The International Transport Workers' Federation commissioned a study in response to safety concerns of members.

    Among other issues identified in April, the study found that the dimensions of the new locks were too small for safe operations.