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Approval of Plans & Initial Canal Transit
Approval of Plans.
(1) The plans for new construction or modification for each vessel or class of vessels should be submitted to the Transit Operations Division for review prior to modification or construction. A minimum of two and a maximum of four sets of copies of each drawing should be submitted. The ACP will retain for its records and files a single set of the drawings submitted and will return only up to three sets of copies of the principal drawings submitted. Failure to comply with this requirement may result in delay or denial of transit because of unsuitable or unsafe arrangements.
(2) The numerous constraints affecting the transit schedules of vessels and tows make it important that information provided in advance of the initial transit include the following documents for approval (a minimum of two copies of each drawing must be submitted):
• General Arrangement (indicating deployed boarding facilities, blue steering light and pilot shelters/platforms)
• Mooring Arrangement (indicating chock/bitt sizes and safe working load capacities)
• Wheelhouse Arrangement (showing required aids to navigation, such as indicators, wipers, horn controls, radar and others)
• Visibility Calculations (indicating compliance with ACP visibility requirements of Paragraph 4.e of this Notice)
• Section Views showing the vessel inside the lock chamber pressed against both center and side walls, indicating clearances of protrusions from lock structures and equipment (for vessels with protrusions – the locks chamber drawings are in Annexes 1, 2 and 3 of Marine Director Notice no.1 https://www.pancanal.com/eng/op/notices/2021/N01-2021.pdf ).
For reference (one copy of each drawing retained for our records):
• Midship Section (or Shell Expansion and bilge radius information, if the Midship Section is not available)
• Engine room plans
• International Tonnage Certificate
• International Load Line Certificate
• Detailed drawings of chocks and bitts showing sizes and maximum strain capacities, if not indicated in the mooring arrangement.
This advance information will minimize the possibility that transit might be denied due to noncompliance with Canal regulations. For detailed information, contact the Transit Operations Division Canal Port Captain South Section Manager (OPTS).
(3) Vessels that have had the appropriate plans approved will normally retain such approval unless it is determined by the Transit Operations Division Manager that modifications are necessary to ensure safe transit.
(4) The Transit Operations Division accepts electronic drawing submittals via e-mail to PlanApproval@pancanal.com
(5) The drawings are to be saved in PDF or AUTOCAD formats. All drawings and documents may be compressed together into zip/7z/rar files. Files exceeding 10MB must not be included within compressed files, instead they must be sent in their original formats.
(6) Upon review, the submittals will be stamped electronically and returned via e-mail. In this manner, the recipient has control of printing any number of copies of the stamped drawings needed to meet distribution requirements.
Required Documentation for Initial Transit in Electronic Format
All vessels transiting the Panama Canal for the first time must provide the following documents in electronic format utilizing WORD, EXCEL, PDF, TIFF, JPEG or similar format:
• International Tonnage Certificate (ITC-69)
• PC/UMS Documentation of Total Volume or suitable substitute
• Volume calculations (If available)
• Suez Canal Certificate (If available)
• Load Line Certificate (If multiple Load Lines exist, provide the one with least freeboard)
• Pilot Card (Vessels speed and general information)
• Ship Particulars
• Certificate of Registry
• Ship Classification Certificate
• Minimum Crew Safe Manning Certificate
• International Sewage Pollution Prevention Certificate
• Passenger Ship Safety Certificate – Form P (for passenger vessels)
• Certificate of Fitness (for Chemical Tanker and Gas Carriers)
• Certificate of International Air Pollution Prevention Certificate (with the supplement)
The following drawings (plans) shall be provided in PDF or AUTOCAD format only, in one plan (not sections), in order to allow for precise calculations:
• General Arrangement Plan
• Capacity Plan with deadweight scale
• Midship Section Plan
• Lines Plan (if available)
• Shell Expansion Plan
• Docking Plan
• Visibility Plan
• Trim and stability booklet or hydrostatic information (summer loaded figures at zero trim for extreme draft, displacement, deadweight and tons of immersion)
• Lightship Test Report or Result Deadweight Measurement Report (for Dry bulkers)
• Container Loading or Stowage Plan when fully loaded (full container vessels only)
• Cargo Securing Manual (full container vessels only - All pages regarding container information above and below deck and all combinations available)
• Cargo Tank Calibration or Cargo Tank Gauging Table (only the cover page and the pages containing the Cargo Tank Capacity Summary) - only for Gas Carriers.
The documents must be legible, of good quality, and shall include all pages. Please specify in the subject of the message, the vessel’s current name, IMO number, and, if available, the vessel´s SIN (Panama Canal Ship Identification Number).
The above-mentioned documentation must be submitted to Arqueadores@ pancanal.com and ACP-Shipplans@pancanal.com at least 96 hours prior to arrival at Panama Canal waters.
Receiving this information in advance will expedite the vessel’s scheduling process, the calculations required for the proper assessment of tolls, and facilitate the inspection process on arrival.
Size & Maximum Drafts Limitations of Vessels
a. Vessels Transiting the Panamax Locks
(1) Maximum Length
a) The maximum length overall including bulbous bow for commercial or non-commercial vessels acceptable for regular transit of the Panamax locks is 289.6 meters (950 feet), except passenger and container ships which may be 294.43 meters (966 feet) in overall length. Vessels transiting the Canal for the first time at an overall length exceeding 274.32 meters (900 feet), whether newly-constructed or newly-modified are subject to the requirement of inspection and prior review and approval of vessel plans. Vessels not receiving advance approval and/or not complying with Canal requirements may be denied transit.
b) The maximum length for integrated tug-barge combination acceptable for regular transit of the Panamax locks is 274.32 meters (900 feet) overall including the tug. A tug-barge combination must transit together as one unit with the tug supplying the propelling power.
c) The maximum aggregate overall length for non-self-propelled vessels acceptable for transit of the Panamax locks is 259.1 meters (850 feet), including accompanying tugs. Accompanying tugs must lock through with the non-self-propelled vessel. One-time only transits that exceed these limitations may be permitted on a case-by-case basis with prior approval of the Transit Operations Division Manager, and subject to requirements listed in Paragraph 2.i (9) of Marine Director's Noticie to Shipping No.1.
(2) Maximum Beam
a) The maximum beam for commercial or non-commercial vessels and the integrated tug-barge combination acceptable for regular transit of the Panamax locks measured at the outer surface of the shell plate and all protruding structures below the lock walls is 32.31 meters (106 feet).
b) Wider commercial vessels including integrated tug-barge combination up to a beam of 32.61 meters (107 feet) may be permitted, with prior approval of the Transit Operations Division Manager, or his designee, to transit on a one-time delivery basis only if the deepest point of immersion does not exceed 11.3 meters (37 feet), TFW.
c) The maximum beam for non-self-propelled vessels (other than integrated tug-barge combinations) acceptable for transit is 30.5 meters (100 feet). One-time transit of wider vessels may be permitted with prior approval of the Transit Operations Division Manager, and subject to requirements listed in Paragraph 2.i (9) of Marine Director's Notice to Shipping No.1.
d) Vessels that carry cargo within 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) or less of the extreme beam must have approved provisions, such as rubbing bands; to protect the cargo should the vessel rest alongside the wall while in the chamber. The maximum beam of 32.31 meters (106 feet) should not be exceeded by the cargo protection method. This is brought about by the large number of container vessels that are designed to load containers virtually to the extreme beam. If the ship lands on the wall in a heeled condition or where the locks wall fendering or miter gate fendering protrudes, damage may occur.
(3) Panamax Locks Maximum Draft
a) The maximum permissible draft for Canal transits using the Panamax Locks has been set at 12.04 meters (39 feet 6 inches) Tropical Fresh Water (TFW) at a Gatun Lake level of 24.01 meters (78.8 feet) or higher. [Gatun Lake density is 0.9954 gms/cc at 29.4o C (85o F).] This provides a safe navigational margin of at least 1.52 meters (5 feet) over critical elevations in the Canal and a clearance over the south sill of Pedro Miguel Locks of 1 foot 8 inches (0.50 meters) at a Miraflores Lake Level of 16.61 meters (54 feet 6 inches).
b) Prior to the initial transit of a vessel whose transit draft will exceed 10.82 meters (35 feet 6 inches), owners, operators or agents must supply in full the information required in the Regulation on Navigation in Panama Canal Waters (ACP Navigation Regulations, Article 52), and request the maximum authorized transit draft for the vessel (deepest point of immersion TFW) from the Transit Operations Division Manager, not later than two weeks prior to the loading of the vessel. This request will be returned with the approved maximum authorized transit draft stamped thereon.
c) The initial transit is permitted at or under the approved maximum authorized transit draft. After the initial transit, unless the vessel's agent or owner is notified of any restrictions imposed by the Canal Authority, this maximum authorized transit draft will remain in effect.
b. Vessels Transiting the Neopanamax Locks
(1) Maximum Length
a) The maximum length overall including bulbous bow for commercial or non-commercial vessels acceptable for regular transit of the Neopanamax locks is 367.28 meters (1205 feet). Vessels transiting the Canal for the first time, whether newly-constructed or newly-modified are subject to the requirement of inspection and prior review and approval of vessel plans. Vessels not receiving advance approval and/or not complying with Canal requirements may be denied transit.
b) The maximum length for integrated tug-barge combination acceptable for regular transit of the Neopanamax locks is 366.0 meters (1200.8 feet) overall including the tug. A tug-barge combination must transit together as one unit with the tug supplying the propelling power.
c) The maximum aggregate overall length for non-self-propelled vessels acceptable for transit of the Neopanamax locks is 400.0 meters (1312.3 feet), including accompanying tugs. Accompanying tugs must lock through with the non-self-propelled vessel. One-time only transits that exceed these limitations may be permitted on a case-by-case basis with prior approval of the Transit Operations Division Manager, and subject to requirements listed in Paragraph 2.j (9) of Marine Director's Notice to shipping No.1.
(2) Maximum Beam
a) The maximum beam for commercial or non-commercial vessels and the integrated tug-barge combination acceptable for regular transit of the Neopanamax locks measured at the outer surface of the shell plate and all protruding structures below the lock walls is 51.25 meters (168.14 feet).
b) The maximum beam for non-self-propelled vessels (other than integrated tug-barge combinations) acceptable for transit is 49.00 meters (160.76 feet). One-time transit of wider vessels may be permitted with prior approval of the Transit Operations Division Manager, and subject to requirements listed in Paragraph 2.i (9) of Marine Director's Notice to shipping No.1.
c) Vessels that carry cargo within 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) or less of the extreme beam must have approved provisions, such as rubbing bands to protect the cargo, should the vessel rest alongside the wall while in the chamber. The maximum beam of 51.25 meters (168.14 feet) must not be exceeded by the cargo protection method. (3) Neopanamax Locks Maximum Draft The maximum allowable draft for Canal transits using the Neopanamax locks has been set at 15.24 meters (50.00 feet) Tropical Fresh Water (TFW) at a Gatun Lake level of 25.91 meters (85.0 feet) or higher. [Gatun Lake density is 0.9954 gms/cc at 29.4o C (85o F).] This provides a safe navigational margin of at least 1.52 meters (5 feet) over critical elevations in the Canal.
(3) Neopanamax Locks Maximum Draft
The maximum allowable draft for Canal transits using the Neopanamax locks has been set at 15.24 meters (50.00 feet) Tropical Fresh Water (TFW) at a Gatun Lake level of 25.91 meters (85.0 feet) or higher. [Gatun Lake density is 0.9954 gms/cc at 29.4o C (85o F).] This provides a safe navigational margin of at least 1.52 meters (5 feet) over critical elevations in the Canal. Seasonal and more restrictive drafts can be imposed due to extended dry periods. Check with us what draft conditions apply before loading your vessel and heading for the Canal.
All vessels transiting the Canal should have sufficient ballast to permit safe handling during transit.
a. The Authority considers proper boarding facilities to be an absolute necessity to ensure the safety of operations personnel and others using these facilities in Canal waters. Poorly constructed, installed, maintained or operated boarding facilities are not acceptable for use in Canal waters. Requirements for boarding facilities are defined in the ACP Navigation Regulations, Articles 57 and 58. Vessels with unsafe or inadequate boarding facilities will be required to correct such deficiencies before transiting and lengthy delays may result. The above is a pictorial representation of acceptable boarding facilities that comply with Canal standards.
b. Safe boarding facilities should be available through the entire transit for pilots and Canal deckhands. Improper boarding facilities may delay the transit or, if deemed safe by the Authority, may require use of a tug to hold the vessel dead in the water during boarding or disembarking operations. This is considered a vessel deficiency, therefore the tug will be charged to the vessel.
c. Boarding facilities of vessels arriving the Canal shall comply with the requirements as shown above, in addition to those indicated in Regulation 23, Chapter V, SOLAS, including all current amendments, annexes and resolutions.
For a detailed description of acceptable Panama Canal Pilot and accommodation ladders please refer to pages #50,51,52 of the OP Notice to Shipping N-1-2021 available at:
Sufficient personnel must be available for a safe operation while in Canal waters. The Transit Operations Division Executive Manager, or his designee may deny transit if, in his opinion, the vessel is insufficiently manned. These requirements include:
(1) At all times while underway in the Canal and adjacent waters, vessels should maintain a proper lookout with no other assigned duties.
(2) A full watch on deck and in the engine room while underway in Canal waters.
(3) At least one officer and two seamen forward and aft respectively to handle lines and machinery (winches) expeditiously when approaching a lock, while moored temporarily to a lock wall, when entering, in or leaving a lock chamber, or when docking, undocking, or mooring to a tie-up station, or to receive and let go tug lines, or when so requested by the pilot.
(4) When a vessel is entering or leaving a lock, getting underway, berthing, shifting berth, anchoring, or is underway in Gaillard Cut, the master shall be on the bridge and all other officers shall be at their regular stations.
(5) As otherwise required by the ACP Navigation Regulations, Articles 102 to 106.
(6) Should Canal officials or the vessel's agent require the master's presence or attention, the request may be granted by the pilot provided the master's presence is not momentarily essential and a qualified representative remains on the bridge. The master shall remain or return to the bridge at the pilot's request.
Construction, Number & Location of Chocks and Bitts
a. Vessels Transiting the Panamax Locks
A vessel passing through the locks shall normally be assisted by electric locomotives using steel towing wires. At the discretion of the Transit Operations Division manager, certain vessels, usually those under 125 feet (38.10 m) in length, may be handled with their own lines either against the lock wall or from both walls in the center of the chamber. Vessels transiting the Canal are required to have chocks and bitts as follows:
(1) All chocks for towing wires shall be of heavy closed construction and shall have a convex bearing surface with a radius of not less than 7 inches (180 mm). The convex surface shall extend so that a wire from the bitt, or from the locks locomotive through the chock, shall be tangent to the 7 inches (180 mm) radius at any angle up to 90 degrees with respect to a straight line through the chock.
(2) No part of the vessel which may be contacted by the towing wires, at any angle, shall have less than a 7-inch (180 mm) radius.
(3) Chocks designated as single chocks shall have a throat opening of not less than 100 square inches (650 square cm) in area — preferred dimensions are 12 x 9 inches (305 x 230 mm) — and shall be capable of withstanding the stress caused by a load of 100,000 pounds (45,360 kg)from the towing wires in any direction.
(4) Chocks designated as double chocks shall have a throat opening of not less than 140 square inches (900 square cm) in area — preferred dimensions are 14 x 10 inches (355 x 255 mm) — and shall be capable of withstanding the stress caused by a load of 140,000 pounds (64,000 kg) from the towing wires in any direction.
(5) Use of existing roller chocks is permissible provided they are not less than 49 feet (15 m) above the waterline at the vessel's maximum Panama Canal draft and provided they are in good condition, meet all of the requirements for solid chocks as specified in Paragraphs 8.a(1), 8.a(2), 8.a(3) and 8.a(4) of this section, as the case may be, and are so fitted that transition from the rollers to the chock body will prevent damage to towing wires. However, roller chocks are not accepted in plans of new constructions which are submitted for approval.
(6) Each single chock shall have an accompanying bitt — preferred diameter of 14 inches (356 mm) –– capable of withstanding the stress caused by a load of 100,000 pounds (45,360 kg).
(7) Each double chock located at the stem and the stern, in accordance with Paragraph 8.a(8) of this section, shall have two pairs of accompanying heavy bitts with each bitt of each pair — preferred diameter of 16 inches (406 mm) –– capable of withstanding the stress caused by a load of 140,000 pounds (64,000 kg). Other double chocks shall have a pair of accompanying heavy bitts with each bitt capable of withstanding a strain of 140,000 pounds (64,000 kg).
(8) All vessels, except those not requiring locomotives, shall be fitted with a double chock set athwartships right in the stem and another double chock set athwartships right in the stern, except that on vessels of less than 75 feet (22.86 m) in beam, two single chocks may be substituted for each double chock required by this subsection; on vessels of over 75 feet (22.86 m) in beam two double chocks may be substituted. If such substitution is made, the chocks shall be placed port and starboard not more than 8 feet (2.5 m) abaft the stem or 10 feet (3 m) forward of the stern, provided that these chocks are not more than 10 feet (3 m) from the center line of the vessel.
(9) Vessels under 200 feet (60.96 m) in length and less than 50 feet (15.24 m) in beam shall have a double chock or two single chocks at the stem and stern. If the vessel is equipped with the two single chocks they shall be placed, port and starboard, not more than 8 feet (2.5 m) abaft the stem or 10 feet (3 m) forward of the stern, and not more than 10 feet (3 m) off the center line (see Figure).
(10) Vessels 200 to 400 feet (60.96 to 121.92 m) in length and not exceeding 75 feet (22.86 m) in beam shall have a double chock at the stem and at the stern or two single chocks at the bow and stern, port and starboard, not more than 8 feet (2.5 m) abaft the stem or 10 feet (3 m)forward of the stern and not more than 10 feet (3 m) off the center line and shall have two additional single chocks, port and starboard, 30 to 50 feet (9 to 16 m) abaft the stem and 30 to 50 feet (9 to 16 m) forward of the stern (see Figure).
(11) Vessels 400 to 570 feet (121.92 to 173.74 m) in length and not more than 75 feet (22.86 m) in beam shall have a double chock at the stem and stern or two single chocks at the bow and stern, port and starboard, not more than 8 feet (2.5 m) abaft the stem or 10 feet (3 m) forward of the stern and not more than 10 feet (3 m) off the center line. In addition, these vessels shall have a double chock, port and starboard, 40 to 50 feet (12 to 16 m) abaft the stem, a single chock port and starboard, 80 to 90 feet (24 to 28 m) abaft the stem, and a single chock, port and starboard, 40 to 50 feet (12 to 16 m) forward of the stern (see Figure)
(12) Vessels over 173.74 meters (570 feet) long or 22.86 meters (75 feet) in beam or over shall have a double chock at the stem and stern or two double chocks at the bow and stern, port and starboard, not more than 2.5 meters (8 feet) abaft the stem or 3 meters (10 feet) forward of the stern and not more than 3 meters (10 feet) off the center line. In addition, these vessels shall have a double chock, port and starboard, 12 to 16 meters (40 to 50 feet) abaft the stem; a single chock, port and starboard, 24 to 28 meters (80 to 90 feet) abaft the stem; a double chock, port and starboard, 12 to 16 meters (40 to 50 feet) forward of the stern and a single chock, port and starboard, 24 meters to 28 meters (80 to 90 feet) forward of the stern. On vessels over 274.32 meters (900 feet) in length with maximum beam of 27.73 meters (91 feet) or more extending to the stern, the double chocks required on port and starboard, 12 to 16 meters (40 to 50 feet) forward of the stern, shall be located no less than 13 meters (42.65 feet) above the waterline at the maximum Panama Canal fresh water draft of the vessel.
(13) All vessels with a maximum beam of 27.73 meters (91 feet) or more, in addition to the double chock at the stern, which is required by Paragraph 8.a (12), above, shall have two single chocks on the stern. One chock shall be to port of the centerline and one chock shall be to starboard of the centerline. The single chocks shall be symmetrically spaced not less than 3 meters (10 feet) nor more than 6 meters (20 feet) from the centerline.
(14) Vessels with large flared bows, pronounced counters astern or unusually high freeboard, such as container vessels or vehicle carriers, will be required to provide single closed chocks located further aft/forward, respectively, than those required for SET2/SET3 in Figure 6 and in Paragraph 8.a (12) for correct positioning of assisting tugs, or may be required to fit recessed tug bollards into the hull so that tugs can work without coming in contact with the bow flare or without requiring extra- long lines and/or inefficient leads (see Figure 6).
(15) Where recessed hull bitts are installed in the hull, they shall be installed not less than 3.7 meters (12 feet) and not more than 4.6 meters (15 feet) above the vessel's waterline. Vessels that have an appreciable variation in draft may be required to install two sets of recessed hull bitts so that one bitt is located over the other bitt. Also, the recessed hull bitts are to be installed in the hull as far forward as possible, both port and starboard sides, where the bow flare does not exceed 25 degrees as measured from the vertical line of the vessel's side. This position may require locating the chocks and bitts further aft than the 24 to 28 meters (80 to 90 feet) abaft the stem as in paragraph 8.a (11). This position will allow ACP tugboats to work safely under the bow flare without the tugboats’ mast or pilothouse coming in contact with the vessel's hull.
(16) A vessel not requiring locomotives shall have a chock arrangement similar to that described in paragraph 8.a (9), except that the chocks need only be single chocks or, if approved by the Canal Authority, of lesser strength.
(17) Any vessel that fails to meet these requirements may be denied transit. If the Vice President for Transit Business or his representative decides that the vessel can be handled without undue danger to equipment or to personnel, notwithstanding her failure to comply with other requirements of this section, the vessel may be allowed to transit after executing a release. The master of the vessel must sign an undertaking for the vessel, her owners, operators or any other persons having any interest in her, and for himself, releasing the Authority from and indemnifying it against any loss, damage or liability incurred by the Canal Authority to the extent and in the proportion that such failure to meet the requirements of this section proximately causes or contributes to the casualty and resulting damages.
(18) All new vessels are expected to comply with all current vessel requirements. Pre-existing vessels are granted a waiver for one round trip or for one year from the date of the waiver, whichever comes first. Certain tank vessels, and other vessels that prove to the satisfaction of the Authority that the work necessary to fit the chocks on the stern cannot be safely performed while at dockside, will be provided with a waiver extending until the next yard overhaul. Vessels with ACP approved recessed bitt on the stern may, upon written application, be exempted from this requirement.
(19) Adequate working space shall be provided on deck areas adjacent to winches, capstans, chocks, bitts and fairleads and along the path of mooring lines at least 91.5 cm (3 feet) in width. This space shall be unencumbered by trash, shoring, lashings or other obstacles deemed hazardous to normal passage or work by line handlers. Height over these areas may not be less than 2.134 meters (7 feet). The working space provided along the path of the mooring lines and beside the bitts must be sufficient so that three linehandlers can pull the lines aboard without using winches or capstans. OP Notice to Shipping N-1-2021 Vessel Requirements 42
(20) Access to/from the mooring/conning stations for Panama Canal personnel via vertical ladders, the climb shall not exceed a continuous height of 9.1 meters (30 feet), otherwise, staggered ladders with intermediate platforms shall be provided. Ladder rungs shall have efficient non-slip surface, a minimum stepping width of 406 mm (16 inches) and be equally spaced apart not less than 275 mm (11 inches) nor more than 305 mm (12 inches). Ladder stringers should be provided on both sides of the ladder shall be constructed of pipes with preferred nominal diameter of 40 mm (1.5 inches). Flat bar stringers should be avoided. For several runs of vertical ladders, the stringers shall extend 1.07 meters (42 inches) above landings or intermediate platforms. Top rung of ladders used to access a deck, work platform, building roof, or top of a tank by stepping through the ladder to a walking or standing surface, should be flush with that surface. Rungs shall be round - 25 mm (1 inch) diameter; or square bar oriented edge up - 25 mm (1 inch) x 25 mm (1 inch).
(21) Handles shall be provided where a vertical ladder comes up to a manhole/hatch opening from the deck below where the ladder does not extend through the platform/hatch. Handles should be also be accessibly located at all stages during climbing or traversing through access hatches. Horizontal separation from stringer shall be 225 mm (9 inches) minimum up to 450 mm (18 inches) maximum. Handles or handgrabs shall be suitably located to provide for safe ascending and descending, while stepping onto or from ladders, individual ladder rungs or steps and through hatches or lightening holes. Handles or handgrabs should be provided for ladder not extending through Platforms to a height of handles 1000 mm (39.5 inches), Round Bar Diameter 25 mm (1 inch).
(22) For further information contact the Transit Operations Division Manager.
b. Neopanamax and Panamax Plus Vessels
(1) Mooring requirements, as stated in Subsection 8.a of this Notice, will remain unchanged for Panamax vessels. For Panamax Plus and Neopanamax vessels, mooring requirements will be as stated in the updated Notice except as required herein. Namely, the chocks and bitts will be used by ACP tugs assisting vessels through the new locks, as well as for mooring vessels inside the locks. Vessels over 294.13 meters (965 feet) long or over 32.31 meters (106 feet) in beam shall have a double chock (mooring) at the stem, and stern or one double chock (mooring) at the bow and stern, port and starboard, not more than 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) abaft the stem or 3 meters (9.84 feet) forward of the stern and not more than 3 meters (9.84 feet) off the center line. In addition, these vessels shall have double chocks (mooring), port and starboard, 2.5 to 16 meters (8.2 to 52.48 feet) abaft the stem and 3 to 16 meters (9.84 to 52.48 feet) forward of the stern, SET1 and SET4, respectively. (See Figure 7 below.) FIGURE 7 – Location of Chocks and Bitts (Neopanamax and Panamax Plus)
(2) All chocks for the Panamax Plus and Neopanamax vessels shall be double chocks and shall have a throat opening area of not less than 900 square centimeters (preferred dimensions are 355 x 255 millimeters / 1.18 x 0.85 feet) and shall be capable of withstanding a SWL of 90 tons (883kN) in towing operations and a minimum SWL of 64 tons (628 kN) in mooring operations from any direction, in accordance with Paragraph 8.a (5) of this Notice.
(3) Neopanamax and Panamax Plus vessels shall have additional tugboat chocks fitted symmetrically at the bow and stern about 3.0 - 14.0 meters (9.84 - 45.92 feet) off centerline, port and starboard sides. In the bow these chocks are to be placed inboard or just above the anchors for safe tug assist operations. Each of these double chocks shall be served by one pair of accompanying heavy bitts with a preferred diameter of 500 mm (19.685 inches), and each bitt shall be capable of withstanding the stress caused by a SWL of 90 tons (883kN). All other towing chock locations, namely SET2 and SET3, will also require one pair of heavy bitts with each bitt capable of withstanding a SWL of 90 tons (883kN). The rest of the chock locations for use in mooring operations shall be accompanied by one pair of heavy bitts meeting the minimum SWL of 64 tons (628 kN).
(4) Vessels with large flared bows, pronounced counters or unusually high freeboards, such as LNG carriers, container vessels, cruise vessels or vehicle carriers, will be required to provide closed chocks located further aft/forward, respectively, than those required for SET2/SET3 above and in Paragraph 8.a.(14) of this Notice, for correct positioning of assisting tugs. These vessels may be required to fit recessed tug bollards into the hull in lieu of the chocks detailed in this paragraph so that tugs can work without coming in contact with the flare or counter and without requiring extra-long lines and/or inefficient leads. Recessed bitts shall meet the 90 tons (883kN) SWL required above.
(5) All vessels wishing to transit the new locks will be required to have mooring winches in operation and fitted with manila or synthetic mooring lines before every transit to be used during mooring operations at the new locks. Noting that “Wire ropes and ropes composed of both wire and fiber or filaments, are not acceptable for Canal operations and shall not be used,” as indicated in the last sentence of Paragraph 9.a; and that, similar to the ACP current practice for temporarily mooring of vessels inside the chambers during relay operations in the actual locks, the normal procedure in the new locks will be to use the manila or synthetic mooring lines from the vessel’s winch drums. The mooring fittings that will be used for headlines when mooring at the locks will be the centerline or alternate chocks at the bow, and the centerline or alternates on the stern for the stern lines. During these mooring procedures the spring lines will use SET1 chocks on the bow and SET4 on the stern.
(6) The use of existing roller chocks (open type) on vessels will be evaluated for approval during transit, upon request, on a case-by-case basis, provided they are located not less than 16.24 meters (53.267 feet) above the waterline at the vessel's maximum Panama Canal draft, are in good condition, meet all requirements for closed chocks, as specified above, and are fitted so that the transition from the rollers to the body of the chock prevents damage to the mooring lines. The equivalency of the proposed closed roller chocks shall be submitted for review and acceptance by the ACP.
(7) Similar equivalency may be requested for existing universal roller fairleads (closed type) located below the 16.24 meters (53.267 feet) height, providing the transition from the rollers to the outer frame of the fairlead at side is shown to prevent damage to the mooring lines in upward directions, as well as downward, with structure built at the top similar to that at the bottom, giving the ropes a safe surface on which to chafe and grind under all directions of load. The universal roller fairlead/supporting structure as a unit are to be certified as complying with 64 tons (628 kN) SWL in all directions. OP Notice to Shipping N-1-2021 Vessel Requirements 46
(8) Alternatively, mooring arrangements have been found acceptable showing the use of stand rollers and/or double bollards to redirect the lines from the winch drums to the double chocks (mooring).
(9) Neopanamax vessels with maximum beams greater than 37.1m will be required to tie up at the chamber walls with a total of eight (8) mooring lines, four (4) forward and four (4) aft, distributed as two (2) headlines forward, two (2) forward spring lines, two (2) stern lines, and two (2) aft spring lines.
Vessels not in compliance with the requirements established in this Notice to Shipping shall be evaluated in order to determine under what conditions, if any, they may be allowed to transit or dock. Vessels that require additional resources due to non-compliance or other deficiencies will be assessed the corresponding charges.
Mooring Lines, Anchors & Deck Machinery
a. Vessels are required to have available for immediate use six manila or synthetic mooring lines forward and six aft in good conditions prior to commencing transit. The size and strength suitable for the vessel to dock, moor at a lock approach wall or secure in a lock chamber are the vessel's responsibility. The master shall inform the Boarding Officer whether or not the vessel complies with the above, so that he may advise Maritime Traffic Control Unit. Wire ropes and ropes composed of both wire and fiber or filaments, are not acceptable for Canal operations and shall not be used.
b. Six (6) of the lines on the bow and six (6) of the lines on the stern shall be stowed in winch drums and ready to be used on either side of the vessel during the mooring procedure at the locks. LNG/LPG tankers or novel design vessels may be determined to require additional lines be provided in winch drums. Wires in the drums are not acceptable and must be replaced with manila or synthetic mooring lines before initiating the transit.
c. Each line shall be at least 328 feet (100 m) in length and shall have an eye of at least five feet (1.50 m) spliced in one end. If one of these lines is 656 feet (200 m) or more in length with an eye in each end, it will qualify as two lines for the purpose of this requirement. They shall be in good condition. Non-compliance with this requirement could result in transit delay.
d. Mooring tails attached to the end of HMPE mooring lines are required in order to provide ease of handling as well as the necessary elasticity to absorb the usual dynamic loads generated during mooring and lockage operations. Tails must be properly matched and connected to the specific HMPE line with which they are going to work. The size, material and length of the mooring tails (pennants) shall comply with the requirements by the HMPE line manufacturer. The connecting method between the line and the mooring tail shall be of an adequate size, weight and configuration in order not to affect the ease of handling of the lines.
e. Anchors and deck machinery shall be operational at all times.
f. Automatic tension winches should never be operated in the automatic mode when the ship is in the Neopanamax locks or at the various tie-up stations.
g. Capstans or mooring winches’ warping heads used to assist in heaving mooring lines, shall be capable of pulling these lines at a rate of 37 meters (120 feet) per minute. This requirement is applicable to all transiting vessels. The master shall inform the ACP Boarding Officer whether or not the vessel complies with this requirement. Additional Canal deckhands or other resources may be assigned in those cases where the capstans or winches are not working or are with limited capabilities.
h. Anchors shall be retrieved at a rate of not less than 0.15 m/sec (3 minutes per shot).
a. Except as specified below, vessels arriving at Panama Canal (ACP) waters shall switch their main propulsion engines, boilers, auxiliary generator engines, and other ancillary OP Notice to Shipping N-1-2021 Vessel Requirements 76 equipment from residual fuels to marine distillate fuels. Changeover must be completed according to the following:
1. Southbound vessels, at least eight nautical miles from the Breakwater on the Atlantic side.
2. Northbound vessels, at least three nautical miles from the Sea Buoy at the Pacific Entrance.
b. Vessels shall record the fuel changeover in their Engine Room Logbook and/or Fuel Oil Changeover Record Book. The record book entries shall specify the date and time of commencement and ending of the changeover from marine residual fuel to marine distillate fuel.
c. After completion of any changeover to marine distillate fuel, the vessel shall verify that the main propulsion engine operates properly. If necessary, the vessel shall undertake appropriate corrective actions to ensure the vessel’s safe and expeditious transit of the Panama Canal.
d. Vessels may supplement or replace marine distillate fuels with any of the following:
1. LNG fuel (including boil-off gas)
2. Biofuels compliant with MARPOL Annex VI
3. Residual marine fuels with maximum sulfur concentration of 0.5% and not exceeding a viscosity of 70 centistokes @ 50°C.
4. A closed loop scrubber in zero discharge mode or a hybrid scrubber in closed loop and zero discharge mode
e. The type of fuel and scrubber combination intended for use in Panama Canal waters must be uploaded by the vessel’s local agent to the FUEL DECLARATION menu in VUMPA for all vessels arriving to Panama Canal waters. In turn, this information will be verified on the BDN or corresponding fuel analysis report by Panama Canal Boarding Officers upon the vessel's arrival to Canal waters. Additionally, vessels with approved scrubbers, must have the following information readily available for verification: IAPP Certificate and Supplement thereof, total volume of effluent holding tanks, and logbook entries confirming that effluent holding tanks were emptied prior to arriving to Canal waters. Note: Warships, submarines, dredges, non-self-propelled vessels, and vessels with length up to 125 ft. are exempted from uploading information to the Fuel Declaration menu.
f. The use of open loop scrubbers or hybrid scrubbers in open loop mode is prohibited in Panama Canal waters.
g. Vessels making only a local port call and not transiting will not be required to switch their main propulsion engines, boilers, auxiliary generator engines, and other ancillary equipment to marine distillate fuel. These vessels may use marine residual fuel with a maximum sulphur content of 0.5% and viscosity higher than 70 cSt @50 °C or a closed loop scrubber or hybrid scrubber in closed loop and zero discharge mode.
h. Vessels anchoring prior to transit will be permitted to use marine residual fuel with a maximum sulphur content of 0.5% and viscosity higher than 70 cSt @50 °C to operate their auxiliary generator engines, boilers, and other ancillary equipment while at the Pacific or OP Notice to Shipping N-1-2021 Vessel Requirements 77 Atlantic Anchorages, only if they are capable of maintaining their main propulsion engines simultaneously on marine distillate fuel.
i. The vessels described in the preceding paragraph shall switch from the fuel being used for their auxiliary generators, boilers, and other ancillary equipment to marine distillate fuel at least two (2) hours prior to the scheduled pilot time for their Canal transit. These vessels will be deemed ready for transit only after the changeover to marine distillate fuel has been completed.
j. Vessels proceeding to port terminals or anchorages within Canal waters immediately after completing their transit will be permitted to switch back to residual marine fuel with a maximum sulphur content of 0.5% and viscosity higher than 70 cSt @50 °C, once the vessel is moored alongside the dock or is anchored.
k. A quick reference guide, a fuel compliance calculator, and a list of Frequently Asked Questions are available at:
l. Further inquiries on the subject matter shall be directed to:
Deck Load Cargo
a. As provided in the ACP Navigation Regulations, Articles 72 and 73, a vessel carrying a deck load shall have it so stowed as to be sufficiently clear to provide safe and clean, working space around all chocks, bitts, and other gear used in transiting and so arranged as to not obstruct any direct lead from chock to bitts.
b. Deck cargo shall be so stowed to provide safe passage to and from necessary working areas. If access to working spaces is necessary over a deck load, as with lumber, a catwalk will normally be required, unless a leveled, continuous surface free of encumbrances such as lashings is already provided. When catwalks are required they shall be at least 91.5 cm (3 feet) in width and provided with adequate guard rails. Where the deck cargo is sufficiently level for gangway purposes without a catwalk, the guard rails, or life lines, spaced not more than 30.5 cm (12 inches) apart vertically, must be provided on each side of the deck cargo to a height of at least 1.20 meters (4 feet) above the cargo.
c. If deck access is provided on deck adjacent to deck cargo, a leveled continuous passage at least 91.5 cm (3 feet) in width shall be provided. This access shall beunencumbered by shoring, lashings or other obstacles deemed hazardous to normal passage. Height over passageway may not be less than 2.134 meters (7 feet).
d. When personnel are required to traverse over deck cargo, ladders adequate for safe access must be provided between the deck and top of deck cargo. Such ladder must be provided with guardrails or safety lines as previously described for catwalks.
e. Deck cargo shall be stowed securely to prevent any shifting or displacement during access to working spaces by personnel.
f. Vessels may transit the Panama Locks with deck cargo protruding over one side only, not to exceed 4.572 meters (15 feet); but the maximum beam, including protrusions, must not exceed 25.90 meters (85 feet).
g. The transit of vessels with protrusions, that due to its dimensions can only transit the Neopanamax Locks, will be evaluated for approval on a case-by-case basis.
h. An adequate bulwark or railing shall be provided between deck cargo and the ship's side.
i. All sharp edges and projections on deck cargo adjacent to normal accesses shall be adequately protected to prevent injury to personnel.
j. Sufficient lighting shall be provided by the vessel to illuminate deck accesses and working spaces during hours of darkness.
k. Figure below shows sketches of a catwalk and ladder acceptable to the Authority.
Sanitary Facilities & Sewage Handling
a. Vessels transiting the Canal should have available for the pilot(s) a suitable sanitary facilities. The facilities should have a “Western-style” toilet equipped with a seat. This is particularly important for barges, small craft (handlines) and other vessels which are not normally so equipped and whose progress is slow. Vessel shall also have “Western-style” sanitary facilities for the intended use of the Canal deckhands on deck or close to their working areas, and must be in suitable sanitary conditions. In case there are no sanitary facilities close to the deckhands working area, or the existing ones are kept in poor conditions, vessel shall make proper arrangements to provide one, in good conditions, when requested.
b. If a transiting ship does not have adequate sanitary facilities, the interval for which each pilot is assigned will be shortened, and significant delays could result.
c. Discharge of sewage is strictly prohibited. Water bodies under the responsibility of the Panama Canal Authority are NO-DISCHARGE Zones for treated or untreated sewage. The Gatun Lake is a drinking water intake zone.
d. When a sewage treatment plant is used, the treated sewage must be collected in a holding tank with capacity for the retention of all treated sewage while the vessel remains in Canal waters.
e. Sewage overboard discharge valves must be clearly marked, closed and secured by padlocks or other approved method when ships enter the Panama Canal Pacific Anchorage or Atlantic Anchorage areas, and must remain in that condition until vessel departs from Panama Canal waters. The outer boundaries of Canal waters are those of the Pacific and Atlantic anchorage areas, as indicated in nautical charts DMA No.21603 and DMA No.26068 respectively
Panama Canal Minimum Visibility Requirements
(1) Vessels transiting the Panama Canal must comply with the following navigation bridge minimum visibility requirements:
(a) For all conditions of draft and trim, the view of the water surface from conning positions 1, 2 and 3 in the navigation bridge shall not be obscured by more than two (2) ship lengths, or 500 meters forward of the bow, whichever is less, straight ahead to 10 degrees to either side from each of the conning positions. If the visibility from normal conning positions is obscured by cargo gear or other permanent obstructions forward of the beam, the total arc of obstructed visibility shall not exceed 10 degrees.
(b) The side hull plating at the vessel's waterline, fore and aft, shall be visible from bridge wing conning positions.
(c) Vessels shall be required to execute an Undertaking and Release if visibility from the bridge is considered by the Canal Authority to present a hazard.
(d) Vessels that do not comply with these visibility requirements due to cargo, cargo gear, structures, or any other reason, shall correct the deficiency in order to transit. If the deficiency cannot be corrected, the vessel shall inform the ACP at least 48 hours prior to arrival in order to take the necessary actions and minimize the possibility of transit delays. This notification shall be made through the ACP’s Maritime Service Portal or any other means acceptable by the ACP. If information regarding deficiencies is not received prior to arrival, the vessel will be considered in compliance; however, if deficiencies are detected upon arrival, the vessel may experience transiting or docking delays, and may also be subject to additional charges.
(e) Vessels failing to meet ACP visibility requirements, for which notification was not received as required in Paragraph (e) above, may be subject to delays and charges above the regular service charge.
(f) The ACP will determine the conditions under which non-compliant vessels may be allowed to transit or dock. Vessels that require additional resources due to their visibility condition, will be assessed the corresponding charges.
Navigation Bridge Features Required of Transiting Vessels
A series of bridge features are required for all transiting vessels. Some of these are:
For more details and specifications please refer to OP Notice to Shipping N-1
Wheelhouse windows with certain specifications
Bridge wings that extend to the maximum beam of the vessel.
Rudder angle indicators
Propeller Revolution Tachometer
Controllable pitch propeller indicators for vessels with this design
Blue Steering light installed at or near the stem and visible from the bridge along the centerline.
Standard magnetic Compass and gyro compass
USA Standard 3 Prong power receptacle
Marine Accidents & Investigations
In the event of an accident in port or during Canal transit causing damage to the vessel, the Canal, port installations, or personal injuries, the Master should notify us immediately with available details, advising whether damage is such as to require survey or temporary repairs, etc.
The Republic of Panama’s Law No. 19 of June 11, 1997, whereby the Authority is organized, establishes the Board of Inspectors.
This law requires that, before the Authority may consider any claim for damages arising out of a vessel accident, the Board of Inspectors shall conduct an investigation into the incident prior to the vessel´s departure from Canal waters.
Owners and operators who elect to proceed to sea before this investigation is completed will forfeit any future recourse against the Authority.
For more information about Marine accidents & Investigations go to
Requirement for Pilot Platforms & Shelters on Certain Vessels
Unless of unusual configuration, it may be taken as a general rule that all transiting vessels which are over 600 feet in length, and have a beam of 100 feet or more with the bridge aft are required to have pilot platforms erected in the forward part of the vessel for the use of the extra pilots that are assigned.
a. As required by the ACP Navigation Regulations, Article 64, suitable platforms and shelters must be provided by certain vessels for assisting pilots. Control pilots will position assisting pilots where they can best contribute to vessel control, which may be at any of the existing pilot platform locations:
(1) Vessels with the bridge in the extreme after part of the vessel (assisting pilot platforms will normally be forward).
(2) Vessels with the bridge in the extreme forepart of the vessel (assisting pilot platforms will normally be aft).
b. Platforms must afford suitable shelter to protect assisting pilots from rain and sun. Figure 2 (p. 26) is a sketch of a simplified pilot platform acceptable to the Authority.
c. Each platform is to be erected directly over the furthest point forward of the extreme beam at the waterline and not more than six inches inboard from the outside of the vertical plane of the shell plating. For vessels where the bridge is located forward, these pilot platform shelters will be required to be erected directly over that position which is the furthest point aft of the extreme beam at the waterline and not more than six inches inboard from the outside surface of the vertical plane of the shell plating.
d. In addition, all vessels whose extreme beam is 24.38 meters (80 feet) or more are required to provide bridge wing shelter platforms for the protection of control pilots at Conning Positions No. 4 and 5. Figure 3 (p. 27) is a sketch of a bridge wing shelter platform acceptable to the Authority. Alternate arrangements, including portable shelters, which provide equivalent or better protection and visibility, may be acceptable.
e. The awning indicated in the sketches in Figures 2 and 3 is to be made of suitable material to provide shelter from the sun and rain. The deck of pilot platforms shall be made of wood or other material with non-skid surface, sufficient to dry footing at all times. Overhead awning should be rigged to avoid spilling water inside the framework of the shelter during rain.
f. Further inquiries on this subject should be directed to the Transit Operations Division Manager.