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BillB48

New Video from the Panama Canal's YouTube Channel

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A short video featuring aerial shots of neo-Panamax vessels at both the new locks and other parts of the Canal.

 

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First thanks for the great video. I was wondering how much operational cost have gone up since they now use all those tugs instead of the electric mules. I know they pass it onto the customer but it is still a cost.

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First thanks for the great video. I was wondering how much operational cost have gone up since they now use all those tugs instead of the electric mules. I know they pass it onto the customer but it is still a cost.

 

That's a good question and I am not so sure the operational costs at the new locks are actually more expensive. Of course in thinking this through you would have to include the cost of all that borrowed money and that I really don't have a clue.

 

However a comparison between the manpower to take a ship through the old locks is significant. The old locks required a line crew which included linemen and boatmen of 12 to 14 men, 6 to 8 locomotive operators, a control house operator and a lockmaster... at least 20 people. The new locks I would assume would have a lockmaster and control house operator and perhaps at most 8 to 10 line handlers, (I think the line handlers is a high estimate). So there is a significant reduction in the number of employees necessary to complete a lockage. Since there are no mules, they have invested in tugs. The last figure locos that I am aware of is $ 2 million a copy, so you would need at least 8 locos for ships this size, plus spares. They bought 14 tugs for the new locks at 12 million per.

 

Discounting the repayment of the borrowed money, I think the Canal's cost to lock a ship through the new locks is actually less than what it is to go through the old locks. Tolls for many of ships using the new locks are generally higher than the highest tolls paid at the old locks. Most tolls at the old locks never exceeded $400k, whereas the inaugural ship, the COSCO Panama paid over $500K to transit. The record so far is for a container ship the MOL Benefactor, who paid $829,000 for a transit in July.

 

When we get to cruise ships, which none have transited and as of now the first one scheduled is the Caribbean Princess in October 2017. The toll for cruise ships using the new locks will be $148 per passenger berth as compared to $138 for ships using the old locks. So a 3000 berth passenger ship will pay $444,000 in tolls and then you have to add the reservation fee ($35,000) and the day light transit guarantee ($30,000) and a number of significant other charges, a $500K toll will not be out of the ballpark.

 

I guess in short I am not sure that the costs have gone up by using tugs at this point. I am of the opinion, the planners hope it is not as expensive and more efficient using tugs. I am sure I could find a soapbox it I looked for it:D, but I leave that for another time.

 

Presently they are taking about 4 ships per day through the new locks. The goal is 12, but they have to slowly work them into the system. The problem is still Gaillard Cut (Culebra) in meeting two large ships in opposite directions. I think at this time they are allowing 2 106' beam ships to meet in the Cut with the goal of two ships meeting with a combined beam of 280'. So there is a lot to be done before the expansion can meet its potential.

 

Hope this isn't a too convoluted answer:o.

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Great answer, Bill.

 

I noticed in the video that they have added a 4th tug since the incident of hitting the lock. That may impact the balance sheet some, but certainly makes sense.

 

I think you're right that the "cost" of a transit is less with the new system, as even with the increase in tariff for the new locks, they have to cover the capital outlay as well as operating costs.

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Thanks Bill for all that great information, I find this stuff fascinating. I completely forgot about all the labor costs with the old locks.

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Since there are no mules, they have invested in tugs.

 

If I may jump in here...in your rundown of manpower for old vs new....any idea of crew size for the tugs (per tug)?

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...When we get to cruise ships, which none have transited and as of now the first one scheduled is the Caribbean Princess in October 2017. The toll for cruise ships using the new locks will be $148 per passenger berth as compared to $138 for ships using the old locks. So a 3000 berth passenger ship will pay $444,000 in tolls and then you have to add the reservation fee ($35,000) and the day light transit guarantee ($30,000) and a number of significant other charges, a $500K toll will not be out of the ballpark...

 

Top notch post! On a recent NCL Norwegian Pearl Panama Canal transit, the public address lecturer mentioned a transit cost of around $650 thousand, payable in advance, with everything included...transit, tugs, mules etc. etc. Have enjoyed all the relevant posts on this and other related threads. Amazing amount of detail. Congrats to all posters and thanks!

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If I may jump in here...in your rundown of manpower for old vs new....any idea of crew size for the tugs (per tug)?

 

Given that they are shift work, and never stray from their dock area, I'd say Captain, engineer, two deck hands, maybe a "mate".

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Basically they crew the tugs with a master, two deckhands and an oiler. No engineer onboard, sometime ago they went to a shore based port engineer system where if there was something the oiler could not handle they would call the port engineer to come out and meet the tug. As far as mates, when they have a mate, the mate is usually in a training program to become a tug master, but mates are not always assigned to the crew.

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Basically they crew the tugs with a master, two deckhands and an oiler. No engineer onboard, sometime ago they went to a shore based port engineer system where if there was something the oiler could not handle they would call the port engineer to come out and meet the tug. As far as mates, when they have a mate, the mate is usually in a training program to become a tug master, but mates are not always assigned to the crew.

 

Well, when you deal with a tug, the "engineer" is basically what would be an "oiler" on a ship. I worked Mississippi River push boats straight out of school, and since I had a license, I was "chief". And yes, for tugs, the "mate" is normally a senior deck hand, and as you say, a skipper in training.

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Well, when you deal with a tug, the "engineer" is basically what would be an "oiler" on a ship. I worked Mississippi River push boats straight out of school, and since I had a license, I was "chief". And yes, for tugs, the "mate" is normally a senior deck hand, and as you say, a skipper in training.

 

Really the oiler is just that, same wage base as the deckhands no license or any pathway to one. When they have a mate, these people are in a formal 4 year program, pass periodic exams and are hired specifically for position as opposed to being a senior deckhand. Except for early on familiarization training they spend their time operating the boat along with classroom training.

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