Attributes Success to Efficient Locomotive Operations

Panama, April 1, 2004 –The Panama Canal Authority’s (ACP) Locks Division today announced a record operational accomplishment: 142 days without a delay caused by locomotives at Gatun Locks, located at the Atlantic entrance of the Panama Canal. The record of nearly five months without a delay was set from October 12, 2003, to March 2, 2004, and breaks the previous mark of 102 days, set in September 2003.

The ACP attributed the achievement to better equipment, training and enhanced efficiency in operating lock locomotives. As part of the Canal’s permanent modernization program, the ACP purchased 34 new locomotives from Mitsubishi – in which a unique arrangement was negotiated. The agreement specified that 16 of the 34 locomotives purchased be assembled on-site in Panama, providing ACP employees with advanced training and skills. As a result, locomotive operations have been more reliable and efficient.

“Today’s announcement demonstrates a real return on investment – investment in our people and investment in equipment. We could not be more proud of our employees – everyday they work extremely hard to produce a better product for our customers,” said Jorge Quijano, Maritime Operations Director. “Today, we recognize their hard work and significant accomplishment.”

The ACP honored this achievement Thursday, March 25, 2004, in a formal ceremony at the Gatun Yacht Club, attended by: Federico Cockburn, Canal Port Captain; Hector Escoffery, Locks Division Manager; Abdiel Perez, Atlantic Locks Superintendent; Aristides Gomez, Gatun Locks Operations Supervisor; Jorge Vásquez, Maintenance Manager; and the Gatun Locks locomotives maintenance team.

The record is notable because the 1.2 mile-long Gatun Locks consists of three chambers or “steps,” each assisted by locomotives, compared with just one-step at Pedro Miguel Locks. Since Gatun Lake is above sea level, a vessel must be “raised” or “lowered” in each of the lock chambers. Each Gatun Lock chamber is 33.5 meters (110 feet) wide, 305 meters (1,000 feet) long and 23.2 meters (76 feet) deep.

For more information, call Teresa Arosemena at (507) 272-1873 (Panama) or Chris Hayes at (202) 326-1768 (Washington, D.C.).