Panama, May 15, 2001 – The Panama Canal Maritime Operations Department, as well as the Human Resources Department’s Training and Development Division were awarded ISO 9001 certification during a ceremony at the Miraflores Locks on May 15, 2001. Accredited classification society Det Norske Veritas (DNV) awarded the certification following their audit from March 26-30 of the same year.
The ISO certification corroborates the quality of ACP customer service and attests to their continued commitment to satisfy customer needs and expectations. By seeking and obtaining certification, the ACP has formalized its commitment to providing expeditious, safe, reliable and competitive service.
The two newly certified branches employ a combined work force of 5,200; nearly 60 percent of the ACP workforce. The Maritime Operations Department is the core organization through which the Canal functions. The Training and Development Division, located in the Human Resources Department, is responsible for preparing and training personnel to operate and maintain the waterway.
The effort to obtain ISO 9001 certification commenced in 1999 with training for employees who would participate in the development and implementation of the new quality system. The process included drafting all system documentation in accordance with ISO 9001 standards; developing the system manual; and documenting hundreds of procedures, work instructions, forms, records and reports.
For professional guidance on this colossal project, the ACP retained the services of Stat-A-Matrix (SAM), a company with a great deal of experience in ISO certification processes. According to Alan Marsh, president of the SAM group, the Canal is the largest geographical area to be certified by ISO, in addition to being the only “World Wonder” to have undergone the process.
Maritime Operations Director Jorge Quijano commented: “The ISO 9001 certification is a great accomplishment and a direct result of the commitment of every employee involved.” Quijano explained that employees were aware of the process’ importance and did everything within their powers to successfully complete the training program and meet the challenging standard requirements in their daily tasks.
“The quality of our service depends upon each one of us,” Quijano added. “We have embarked on a strategic program for continuous improvement that will enhance service value for our customers on a daily basis.” As chairman of the ACP’s ISO 9001 Executive Committee, Quijano has led the certification effort for the past two years.
By establishing clearly defined and documented processes for developing and controlling service quality, the certification enables the ACP to increase customer assurance and promotes better client-ACP communications. It also identifies the ACP as a world-class standard corporation Furthermore, the focus on resource utilization results in increased efficiency. As a whole, the certification helps the ACP meet its constitutional mandate to profitably operate the Canal and to contribute to the development and progress of Panama.
ISO 9001 encompasses a series of voluntary international standards that have been used to establish and maintain a quality administration system for product manufacturers or service providers. Implementation of ISO 9001 requires the ACP to review and continuously improve all current procedures.
“This standard gives us a method to ensure that work is always carried out in the established manner, which helps reduce errors,” Quijano stated. “At the same time, it obligates us to regularly re-examine our work processes, with the objective of correcting irregularities and improving that which we are already doing well.”
Recognized in 22 countries, DNV is an independent auditing firm that certifies systems quality as per ISO 9001 standards. Established in 1864, the company employs 5,500 people at 300 offices in 100 different countries and has already certified nearly 33,000 companies.
DNV also establishes vessel classification regulations and guidelines for classifying vessels, mobile platforms used on the high seas and other floating marine structures. It is considered one of the top three classification companies in the world and is a recognized leader in quality and safety management system certification under the ISO 9001 standard for maritime companies.
Following the completion of this certification process, DNV will periodically audit the ACP in order to ensure continued standard compliance. Other ACP units will gradually start individual processes to obtain the ISO 9001 certification. As a result, the entire Canal organization will be operated under the highest and most rigorous international standards of quality.