A Panamanian government agency is to launch an inquiry into the Panama Canal Authority’s treatment of tugboat captains, the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots (MM&P) said.
The Autoridad Nacional de Transparencia Internacional (ANTAI), in charge with investigating ethics violations and corruption, will look into the tugboat captains protesting forced overtime, unilateral manning cuts and other safety concerns.
The captains are members of the MM&P Panama Canal affiliate Union de Capitanes y Oficiales de Cubierta (UCOC), which represents about 200 tug captains and associated vessel personnel. For months, they have been protesting dangerous working conditions on the canal.
“Panama Canal Authority (ACP) managers have been cutting corners to reduce costs. Most recently, the ACP unilaterally moved to reduce the number of deckhands handling lines aboard tugboats in the locks from three to two,” MM&P said.
“The ACP is not providing proper staffing and equipment for the new larger locks, putting workers and safe shipping at risk,” UCOC added.
Rather than address safety issues that have led to wear and tear on the locks, the death of a worker in November, and the collision of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Tampa, the ACP has begun disciplinary proceedings for 22 Panama Canal tugboat captains who raised questions about short-staffing and crew fatigue, MM&P noted.