ITF raises concerns for worker safety at expanded Panama Canal

The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) has raised more concerns about safety issues at the new locks of the expanded Panama Canal.

The union cites a 2011 study commissioned by the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) which recommended types and number of vessels for the tugboat fleet to properly handle conditions in the locks. But the ITF says those numbers have never been realized.

On top of that the union claims the ACP has been utilizing tugboats from privatized, non-union companies to make up for the shortfall in its own fleet, which ITF says is a way to shut out unionized workers.

The new locks have been operating since the official opening of the expanded Canal in June.

Other instances of privatization include outsourcing emergency medical services in the event of accident, which the ITF again says weakens worker safety.

Six months ago, prior to the inauguration of the new locks, the ITF had also raised the alarm about worker safety there.


Donal Scully

With 28 years experience writing and editing for newspapers in the UK and Hong Kong, Donal is now based in California from where he covers the Americas for Splash as well as ensuring the site is loaded through the Western Hemisphere timezone.


  1. I believe the operating phrase in the Panama Canal piece about tugboat safety, as written in Splash24/7 is ‘which ITF says is a way to shut out unionized workers.’. The legalised blackmail which the electric haulage drivers (all fully-unionised members, naturally) used was to state, categorically, that no ship would move through the old locks with the aid of a locomotive driven by a non-union member. The expanded locks use tugboats to move ships through the lock system, to the total exclusion of the Unionised drivers, and they just don’t like it one bit.

    As a man who has detested the very idea of unions all his working life, I can safely state that the Panama Canal management have chosen the best manner of moving the ships which use the larger locks, and if they have outwitted the greedy and unscrupulous unions whilst doing so, so much the better.

    The so-called ‘Safety survey’ which was produced by the ITF was little more than a highly-polished attempt to push the locomotive drivers into the foreground on a ‘safety’ basis, and the entire industry, along with the Panama Canal management; laughed them out of the room.

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