Panama Canal Invests in Ship Scheduling Software to Deal with Cargo Surge

Image Courtesy: Panama Canal Authority

In response to growing ship traffic through the waterway, the Panama Canal intends to launch vessel scheduling and maritime resource management system in order to deal with inflow of cargo following the canal expansion.

The system is expected to transform how the Panama Canal plans and schedules transit operations. For the first time, the canal will be able to execute an integrated operating plan for all of its critical resources, including tugboats, pilots and line handlers, according to the Panama Canal Authority.

As disclosed, benefits for shippers will be shortened vessel waiting times, increased number of potentially available vessel slots each day and improved overall reliability of the route.

“Using advanced modeling language, we’ll be able to leverage path-optimization algorithms and mathematical, constraint and graphical programming to optimize scheduling and resource utilization,” Arnoldo Cano, Panama Canal Program Manager for the ACP Renewal of Processes and Core Systems, said.

Following the opening of the expanded waterway last year, the Panama Canal reported a surge in cargo and the number of transits by larger Neopanamax vessels. In February 2017, the Panama Canal set a new daily tonnage record of 1.18 million Panama Canal tons (OC/UMS) after welcoming a total of 1,180 ships through both the expanded and original locks.

However, with the new tonnage influx there is much more pressure on navigating the ever growing number of ships through the canal safely and the very organization process is more difficult to handle.

As a result, the canal Authority expects that, once the system is implemented, it will enable more efficient management of the ships’ passage.

The system is planned to be fully integrated into canal operations over the course of the next two years, with the module responsible for managing the canal’s vessel scheduling expected to be operational by the end of the fiscal year in September 2017.

In a separate announcement, Dutch shipbuilder Damen revealed it has received an order from the Meyer’s Group for two tugs that will operate in the expanded Panama Canal.

The group was awarded a contract last year to offer towage support in the new locks, Michel Mittelmeyer, Chief Executive Officer of the Meyer’s Group, said at an official signing ceremony at the Panama Maritime XIII World Conference.

“With the Panama Canal expansion, there has been a substantial pick-up in activity. And even though there are maybe fewer feeder vessels, these are being replaced with the mega containerships and tankers, hence the need for stronger, versatile tugs,” Mittelmeyer added.

The two tugs – Arcangel San Rafael and Arcangel San Gabriel – will join the Meyer’s Group’s fleet in May and August, respectively.

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