The Panama Canal is an artificial watercourse that forms the link between the North and South America via the Central American isthmus. The estimated length of the canal is 80.45km (Du Temple, 2003, p.4).The presence of the watercourse allows the ocean waters to pass through from either sides of Pacific or Atlantic. The birth of idea of constructing the canal is traced back to 16th Century (Crawford-Adiletta & Demand Media, 2010, ¶3). This was accredited to Vasco de Balbao after his voyage through the isthmus. Though narrow, the vessels used the canal in 1914 (Crawford-Adiletta & Demand Media, 2010, ¶2). The Panama Republic has autonomy over the canal after accord appended by the President of USA in 1977 (Crawford-Adiletta & Demand Media, 2010, ¶7). Panama republic initiated its official autonomous operations in year 2000. The canal’s construction work led to loss of tens of thousands of dollars. The whole construction work was estimated to have cost about US$375million. The canal is in tropical ambient with common temperatures of about 26.67°C (Crawford-Adiletta & Demand Media, 2010, ¶5). Within the canal, three noticeable passage gateways for vessels are Gatun, Pedro Miguel and Miraflores. The gateway systems can lift vessels from water as high as 26m (¶4). This canal has been a tourist attraction with guided tours that last hours while others a day. Shorter trips last up to four to five hours (Crawford-Adiletta & Demand Media, 2010, ¶4).
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Transit processes via Panama Canal has procedures. First, initial transit should be preceded by prior consent and availing an array of documents. These are forwarded to Panama Canal Authority. These includes International Tonnage and International Load Line Certificates, calculation sheets, capacity and lines plans, funnel and general arrangement plans, displacement and deadweight scale (Fernie & Co. S.A., 2007, ¶.2). A week to arrival of the vessel there should be communication accompanied by declarations. This information helps in ensuring hygiene, quality services on arrival and security. In scheduling transit, rule of passage through the canal prioritizes arrival time of each vessel. In addition, convoys have been limited. The vessel personnel must in their strategic positions as the vessel navigates through the canal, secure the anchor, adjust berthing operations and locations.
According to Alderton (2008) strategies that can be applied in order to minimize the wasting of time within a port facility include having additional berths proportionate to vessels; prolonging the operating time for berths proportionately to cater adequately for vessels and improve the port load capacity (p.110). Panama Canal water passage can be perceived to be like another port system and thus the economic viewpoints of the shipping agencies. In optimizing any port facilities, the manager of the port facility and the client-shipping agency have their ventures tailored with opportunistic viewpoints. That is utilizing the port facility in the most efficient way. The manager would wish to maximize the gains from the port by having more ships using his berth throughout while experiencing the least possible cost in the process (Alderton, 2008, p.107). On the other hand, a shipping agency would wish to be efficient during actual transport missions by avoiding time wasting. The shipping agency screens the transportation cycle from the ship dispatch terminal to the destination while keen on areas that have time delay. This means there should be cooperation between the operator and manager for actual efficiency during the ship terminal operations. This will mean bringing down the cost of operations at the port facility.
In a scenario where a common company owns the shipping agency and the port manager, then the different wings should coordinate and supervise the implementation of efficiency tools (Alderton, 2008, p.107). The timing of the ship entering the port terminal allows sufficient attention from the port personnel. It is also important to note that the shipping wing should schedule the arrival of their vessel in a manner not to overwhelm the port at once and later leave it idle. At times, this can be viewed as a problem of monopoly where the sole operator may strategize to ensure that shipping missions utilize the port to capacity. In situations where the existing schedule has utilized the port to the maximum and still can host more ships, then the overall company may choose from three options. First option is that the company may increase their vessels tally to a number that will optimize the facility. Second option, the company may choose to lease their extra services to external shipping agency. The third option may be to blend conveniently the first and second options. The entry of extra agency may significantly improve the services competitively. With a liberalized access system, there are no shipping agencies to utilize the port privately but instead allow vessels from other agencies hence approaches to solutions can vary.
There are three approaches for vessel berthing which can guide either private or liberalized management systems (Alderton, 2008, p.108). The first approach is the Queuing theory, which makes several assumptions. It assumes that priority is given to the first vessel to arrive. Vessels can arrive simultaneously but randomly and the berthing process allows for one after another (one at time), where they smoothly following each other. The capacity of berth does not exceed more than one, thus long queues at peak should be expected during peak time. Some of these assumptions are a limitation in the contemporary world. Vessels queue at telephone exchanges (Alderton, 2008, p.108). The second approach is simulations through sound. Two types, which include computer or manual applications are involved (Alderton, 2008, p.108). Computer applications are locally customized for port. While in the case of manual application, procedures are relatively cheaper and conventionally understood (Alderton, 2008, p.108). The third approach involves schedule analysis of vessel terminal dispatch and arrival. Use of the more common spreadsheet makes it a cheaper computer approach (Alderton, 2008, p.108). Tradeoffs at the Panama Canal Authority should be established about the three approaches to reduce limitations associated with any of them. The extent of preference of applying any of the approaches vis-à-vis an integrated one would depend on efficiency advantage associated with it.
It is worthy to mention that one vessel policy with regard to arrival time has a limitation in the delay and should be revised. Associated problems include increased emissions during waiting after arrival to the Panama Canal. This translates to environment pollution. In addition, more fuel is consumed thereby extending operations cost for the shipping agent. As much as it is expensive to expand the canal infrastructure to allow more vessels to pass at one moment, policy instruments can also be used to improve the situation. The effectiveness of the policy instruments depends on the cooperation between stakeholders-the government, port operators and shipping agencies as well as revisiting of IMO regulations.
Alderton, P. (2008). Port management and operation, (3rd ed.). London: Informa.
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Crawford-Adiletta, L. & Demand Media. (2010). Information on the Panama Canal. Web.
Du Temple, L. (2003). The panama canal. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications company.
Fernie & Co. S.A. (2007). Panama Canal Transit information. Web.