Ship hits wall of Panama Canal renewing design concerns


BBC news reports that a Chinese container ship—the Xin Fei Zhou—hit a wall of the recently-widened Panama Canal, amid concerns that it has less space for maneuvers and could be unsafe. The first voyage through the new expanded canal was on June 26, but this is the third accident of this kind since the multi-million dollar expansion opened.

Workers groups say the new locks are too small for safe operations now that the canal can take ships three times larger than before. The Panama Canal authority says it is investigating the incidents. The Xin Fei Zhou, owned by China Shipping Container Lines, suffered a large gash in its hull and is now undergoing repairs.

The new locks are designed for ships to use tugboats to guide them through the canal. In the old canal locomotives (known as “mules”) would keep the ships correctly aligned as they passed through. A study for the International Transport Workers’ Federation released earlier this year concluded that the new lock chambers were too small for the tugboats to be able to manoeuvre properly. [. . .]

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