Panama Canal Announces Expansion Inauguration Date: June 26, 2016
The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has announced that the Panama Canal expansion will be officially inaugurated on June 26, 2016.
The announcement was made during the inauguration ceremony of the canal’s Scale Model Maneuvering Training Facility, which will provide additional hands-on experience to pilots and tugboat captains to operate in the expanded canal.
“The Scale Model Training Facility will allow us to continue providing world-class service to the global maritime industry, while guaranteeing safe and efficient transits through the soon-to-be inaugurated Expanded Canal,” said Jorge L. Quijano, CEO of ACP. “The dream of expansion will become a reality when we inaugurate the biggest infrastructure project in the history of the canal and the country of Panama.”
The 35.3-acre training facility features two lakes connected by a channel modeled after the canal’s Culebra Cut. The new facility features docking bays, replicas of the new and existing locks, gates, and chambers, all at a 1:25 scale.
The facility is equipped with a number of scale model Panama Canal tugboats, as well as ships built in France at Port Revel, including bulk carriers modeled after the Nord Delphinus, and a container ship modeled after the Maersk Edinburgh. In addition, a liquid natural gas (LNG) ship will be delivered by September 2016.
The facility features wave and wind generators to provide a realistic, hands-on training experience for Canal pilots and tugboat captains to prepare them for the opening of the expanded waterway. It complements the training already provided at the Center of Simulation, Research and Maritime Development (SIDMAR) through immersive, 360-degree training simulations and courses.
The expansion program is currently 97 percent complete, the ACP has announced. Final testing will be conducting in the following weeks, leading up to the official inauguration.
In separate news, the ACP issued a temporary draft restriction on the Panama Canal, thanks to a drought in the Canal Watershed related to El Niño. The drought has caused the water levels of Gatun and Alhajuela lakes to fall substantially below their average for this time of year. The restriction sets the maximum draft at 39.0 feet Tropical Fresh Water (TFW) effective April 18, 2016, for vessels loaded after March 21. Any further draft restrictions will be confirmed at least four weeks in advance.