Panama, October 16, 2000. The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has reported an outstanding safety record for the first nine months under Panamanian administration, with only 16 vessel accidents registered out of a total of 9,762 transits during the period of January through September 2000.

This record is lower that the preceding two years. Between January and September of 1999, there were 19 accidents recorded out of a total of 9,471 transits. In 1998, there were 18 accidents registered out of a total of 9,676 transits during that same period.

This noteworthy new safety record comes at a time when Panamax vessel transits through the waterway continue on the rise, representing approximately 34 percent of total daily transits. Larger vessels require additional Canal resources and more careful coordination between vessel and ground personnel.

Panama Canal pilots must coordinate carefully with ground and floating equipment personnel while navigating through the canal, were extensive improvement projects are underway. As a result of an intense $1-billion modernization program, particularly the Gaillard Cut widening, the ACP will be able to offer better, faster, and safer transit services. Canal users will benefit from two-way traffic through the Cut, as well as more powerful tugboats and locks locomotives.

The ACP currently has 289 pilots on its labor force, 264 of whom are Panamanian. The experience of Panama Canal pilots, as well as rigorous, ongoing training of Canal employees in general, are key factors that have contributed to the decrease in accidents, despite the increasing tonnage coming through the Panama Canal.