ITF Raises New Safety Concerns about Panama Canal’s Locks

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) again raised concerns about the safety of the Panama Canal’s new locks at a press conference held in Panama city on October 21, 2016.

The new alarm over the operation of the Panama Canal was sounded some six months after ITF first presented a safety study, which questioned the safety of transit through the new locks.

According to the ITF, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) carried out a study in 2011 to determine the type and size of the tugboat fleet necessary to operate the new locks. “Their findings pointed towards a certain amount of personnel, tugs and other resources as well as training and operational procedures needed and that are lacking today,” the ITF said.

Despite the revised lock plans, the ACP did not increase its tugboat fleets. The ITF also highlighted the growing threat of privatization of its members in the Panama Canal as “the lack of vessels has been used as an excuse for chartering 12 tugboats from private and anti-union companies.”

“The truth is that what the ACP has done with these private tugboat companies is evidently part of a bigger plan to privatise many of the services offered by the Canal,” Paddy Crumlin, ITF president, said.

“This privatisation has been rightly condemned by our Panamanian member unions, who are well aware of the accident risks and uncertainty being generated by this among canal workers,” he added.

Furthermore, Crumlin said that accidents that have taken place in the new locks are very similar to those raised as risks by the study.

“All these factors point towards a severe breach of the integrity of the operation and a serious downgrade of the safety to navigation through our waterway,” Crumlin concluded.

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