It could have gone horribly wrong for five crew members on a tugboat that was pushed against a closed lock gate in the Panama Canal, video shows. The security in the canal is now heavily criticized. "An accident can have greater consequences than Ever Given blocking the Suez Canal."
"The lock was not ready, the chamber was not full and the gates were closed, but the pilot continued forward anyway," said the tugboat captain after the incident, which you can see in the video below.
"A tug on the stern is a requirement to go through the locks, but there was none because the pilot did not want to wait for the other tug that was assisting another vessel," he continued.
Nothing happened, but it could have gone completely wrong and this is because - according to the tugboat captains' association in Panama - the canal authority has relaxed the safety procedures.
“Nothing is written down. There are no safety procedures, so the pilots can do what they want," it reads, among other things. other things. Examples are cited of pilots entering the locks without a tug at the stern or sailing through the channel at too high a speed.
"We live in anarchy here," reads another comment.
The problems are greatest in the expanded channel, where tugboats have to keep the ships in place in the locks. And there is no room for error in a lock chamber that is 427 meters long and allows ships with a length of up to 370 meters, then there must also be room for two tugboats, which are on average barely 27 meters long.
And lack of tugs and savings increases the risk of accidents. The canal authority says it has 46 tugboats, but many are so old that spare parts can no longer be obtained for them - and therefore they are not maintained.
And if a locked gate in the expanded Panama Canal were to be smashed, it would take months to repair it - and in the meantime, the canal would be closed to all neo-Panamax ships, points out the president of the union, the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots, Don Marcus:
“The Panama Canal Authority has allowed conditions to deteriorate to the point where it is only a matter of time before disaster strikes. And it has the potential to affect international trade to a far greater extent than the grounding of Ever Given in the Suez Canal in March 2021," he states.