Panama, February 1, 2001. Seaworthy once again after a breached hull produced a spill within a Panama Canal lock chamber, the Greek-flag Neapolis departed Canal waters at 6:33 a.m. this past January 26, after completing essential repairs.
Neapolis was transiting the Pedro Miguel Locks on the evening of January 24 when a leak was spotted by Panama Canal Authority (ACP) workers. Fortunately, the oil spill was contained in the locks’ uppermost east chamber, where the Panamax vessel—749 feet in length by 105 feet in width or beam—was retained while ACP emergency response personnel performed provisional repairs and collected the spilled crude.
Initiation of the ACP’s emergency response procedure was immediate and involved approximately 40 workers, including locks and fire department personnel, as well as scuba divers. Additionally, two ACP suction pump trucks and two hydrocarbon skimmer launches named Toucan and Oil Bird were commissioned for the procedure.
Thanks to the ACP’s speedy response, the vessel was able to complete her Panama Canal transit through the Miraflores Locks and to the Pacific anchorage grounds at noon on January 25, and by that same morning nearly all the spilled crude—120 barrels according to preliminary estimates—had been recovered.
Despite the spill, Panama Canal traffic was not interrupted. The incident is still under investigation.