New Panama Canal Requirements Retro-fit

The major widening project of the Panama Canal (5.4 billion US$) commenced in 2008 Panama canaland is expected to be completed in 2015. This would enable larger vessels to transit the canal, up to three times size. The Panama Canal Authority has come up with requirements for the vessels to transit the canal. This paper outlines the need and the process for undertaking such modification and preparing the booklet for submission and approval prior vessel calling.

The major impact on the widened canal will be in the container segment where the widening can help most of the vessels to transit.


The dimension limitation of the old and new Panamax vessel is shown below.

Panama canal size







The first step then is to identify the additional requirements to meet compliance. The list of requirements are as follows:

1. Pilot Platforms and Shelters

Pilot platform and shelters with dimensions 1.5 x 1.5 area and headroom of 2.1/2.25 m to be provided on bridge wings.

2. Protrusion

Protrusions – cargo or extensions beyond the ship’s side located 16.4 m or less above the waterline is not permitted.

3. Visibility requirements

The requirement are clearly spelt out in the rules – 1 ship length in loaded and 1.5 ship length in ballast condition for all vessels. For container vessels this is 2 ship lengths or 500 m, whichever is lesser.

3. Mooring Arrangements

The requirements for bollards and chocks are specified based on the vessels size. Chocks that are specified as single chock shall have SWL of 45.36 T and double chocks shall have SWL of 64 T.panama-chock

For a vessel that is over 173.74 m length or 22.86 m width, the following chocks are required:

  • Bow centerline (double), stern centreline (double)
  • Two double (of centreline not provided)
  • Set 1 (Double 12-16 m abaft of stem)
  • Set 2 (Single 24-28 m abaft of stem)
  • Set 3 (Single 24-28 m forward of stern)
  • Set 4 (Double 12-16 m forward of stern)

4. Mooring Lines, Anchor

Vessels are required to have on deck six manila or synthetic mooring lines forward and six aft in good conditions. Each line shall be 75 meters in length and have an eye of 1.5 meters spliced in one end.

Mooring winches shall be capable of retrieving the lines at 37 meters per minute. panama-sectionAnchors shall be retrieved at rate of 9 meters per minute.

5. Wheelhouse 

The wheelhouse and bridge wings are required to have a list of equipments and facilities like clear safety glass, rudder angle indicators, rpm indicator, VHF trans-receiver. Most of these requirements would be met, except some of the devices not being there in bridge wing.

6. Vessel Section

The section of the vessel in the canal with all clearance need to be made for all locks.

Experience: One 4,700 TEU with additional chocks and bollards approval from class completed.

Download: White paper titled, “What is the Impact of Panama Canal Widening?”, download here.

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