The first vessels to navigate the newly expanded Panama Canal last month mark a significant milestone in a project, which launched literally with a blast on 3 September 2007. The USD $5.25 billion project is the largest investment in the Canal’s 100 year history however vessels wishing to benefit from the expansion will have to undergo modifications.
We caught up with Francesca Ghigliazza, project manager of V.Delta – V.Group’s conversions, engineering and energy conservation business, to find out just what’s involved to ensure vessels meet the requirements set out in the Panama Canal Authority’s (ACP) official publication Notice to Shipping No. N-1-2016.
“There are a number of requirements to be met if vessels want to take advantage of the expansion to the canal,” says Francesca. “This includes but not limited to mooring and wheelhouse arrangement as well as new mooring fittings.”
What’s the one piece of advice Francesca would give to potential clients? “Don’t underestimate the time it takes to meet the modification requirements,” she says. “We’re typically experiencing a project run time of a few months and that’s when all the plans have been submitted correctly from the start,” she adds.
Does the vessel owner need to organize dry docking to enable the modifications to take place: “Not necessarily,” says Francesca. “Depending on the entity of the changes required it could be possible to carry out the modifications while the vessel is in operation. And of course, this planning can help to reduce the time it takes to complete the conversion.”
Having managed the engineering phase for Panama Canal Authority approval, of several vessels, which includes tankers and passenger ships under V.Ships management, Francesca is keen to reinforce the need for planning.
“We’re building up a good knowledge bank and with more vessel modifications under our management; we are building on this capability all the time.”
Once the relevant documents have been updated to be in compliance with the Notice, final approval has to be sought from both the Panama Canal Authority and the Classification Society. “We offer our clients a complete design and engineering service to fulfill the ACP requirements – dealing directly with the Panama Canal Authorities and the Classification Societies.”
And as Francesca further adds: “The opening of the Panama Canal expansion has been long awaited and will increase operating efficiencies for thousands of vessels so it’s being seen as an important investment for those wishing to take advantage.”