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Panama Canal Begins Tests of Simultaneous, Two-Way Transits at Canal’s Most Narrow Channel

Date: 17-APR-2003

Trials Occur at Recently Widened Gaillard Cut

Panama City, Panama, April 17 - The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) announced that it has initiated trials of simultaneous, two-way transits (Pacific and Atlantic bound) of large commercial vessels that were previously limited to one way traffic through the Gaillard Cut - the most narrow passage in the Panama Canal. (See www.pancanal.com for images of the Gaillard Cut.).

An important element of the Canal’s program of permanent modernization, the widening of the Gaillard Cut was completed early and under budget. The Cut was widened from 152 meters to 192 meters along straight stretches and up to 222 meters on curved areas. The trials will eventually lead to two Panamax-size vessels transiting simultaneously in opposite directions through the Cut, thereby increasing the Canal’s capacity and maintaining Canal Waters Time at the level expected by customers.

“These trials represent a real milestone and are the result of a tremendous amount of work done by many here in Panama. This is an enormous achievement in our permanent modernization program. We will continue testing the different reaches of the Gaillard Cut in a progressive manner to ensure safety and efficiency. I have a high esteem for all those who work so hard to continually improve the Canal for our customers,” said Canal Administrator Alberto Alemán Zubieta.

The trials began after negotiations were completed between the Panama Canal Pilots Union and the ACP. A supervisory pilot and a senior pilot board each vessel that participates in the trials. The testing will last nine to twelve months, with the length of the trials contingent on the mix of vessels arriving at the Canal for transit.

The trials are taking place in Bas Obispo and Cascadas, the northernmost sections of the Gaillard Cut. These two sections constitute 40 percent of the Cut, and are the last portions of channel before reaching Gamboa on a northbound transit. Once these trials prove successful, the ACP will follow with additional tests in the rest of the Cut. These thorough trials and comprehensive testing mitigate risk before simultaneous transits of Panamax-size vessels can become a routine. To date, testing has been successful and reflects a high degree of safety.

About the Panama Canal
The Panama Canal Authority is the autonomous agency of the Government of Panama in charge of managing, operating, and maintaining the Panama Canal. The operation of the Panama Canal Authority is based on its organic law and the regulations approved by its Board of Directors. For more information, please refer to the website: www.pancanal.com.


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