PANAMA CITY, Panama, October 19, 2004 –Crossing the Isthmus of Panama from the Pacific to Atlantic and back is now safer than ever. In 2004, only 10 official accidents occurred at the Panama Canal. The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) made the announcement today saying that even with a rise in total transits and a spike in Panamax vessels using the Canal, the ACP was able to reduce accidents.

Out of 14,035 transits in FY2004 (September 2003– October 2004) 10 accidents occurred – compared with the previous mark of 12, which occurred in 2003. The drop occurred while Canal transits were on the rise: a 6.3 percent increase in 2004 – 13,154 vessels transited the Canal in FY2003. Additionally, many more of the wider and longer ships transited the Canal in 2004 than 2003 – 592 more Panamax-sized vessels transited during FY2004 – a 12.5 percent rise compared with FY2003.

“The safety of our customers and employees is paramount. As we have proven over the past few years, our total focus on our customer has yielded great results. The ACP’s world-class workforce ensures safe and reliable transits for all vessels. We will continue to improve and modernize the Canal to ensure that we provide the best service for our customers” said Administrator/CEO Alberto Alemán Zubieta.

An official accident is one in which a formal investigation is requested and conducted.

Compared to the first years of Canal’s operation, when the waterway was only open during daylight hours, 17 accidents occurred out of 2,500 transits in both 1919 and 1921.

The reduction in accidents is largely attributed to the ACP’s workforce who has cultivated their skills and abilities, as demonstrated in several achievements noted this past year. The ACP’s permanent modernization program has also contributed greatly to these significant results. Recent projects implemented include: the acquisition of new locomotives; the replacement of the locomotive tow tracks; the implementation of the Automatic Identification System (a sophisticated navigation tool); the addition of a new launch; the implementation of the Automated Data Collection System; and the deepening of Gatun Lake. These projects increase efficiency, reliability and safety and reduce Canal Waters Time, leading to increased capacity.

About the Panama Canal Authority (ACP)
The ACP is the autonomous agency of the Government of Panama in charge of managing, operating and maintaining the Panama Canal. The operation of the ACP is based on its organic law and the regulations approved by its Board of Directors. For more information, please refer to the ACP’s website: http://www.pancanal.com/.