Additional Covid measures at Panama Canal

25 Mar 2021 / Panama Canal, Panama

The Panama Canal has issued updates to various policies including those covering:

  • Transit of vessels with positive or suspected COVID-19 cases
  • Booking rules for Panamax Plus vessels
  • Biosecurity measures and protections
  • Modifications to rates and tariffs
  • Adjustments for Neopanamamax locks

The Panama Canal is closely monitoring the evolving COVID-19 outbreak and has adopted a series of measures to protect its personnel and prevent further spread of the virus, and continue providing a safe and uninterrupted service to its customers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Since January, ships arriving at the waterway have been required to report their last 10 ports of call and if they have visited countries with confirmed cases prior to their arrival. This builds off, and has been followed by, a series of additional actions taken at the waterway.

Vessel Transit Measures

The Panama Canal’s inspection and control personnel already work tirelessly to ensure compliance with regulations on health and prevention of contagious diseases within its waters. These inspections for contagious risk issues have been carried out for years and are required for all vessels that arrive in the Panama Canal waters.

Existing controls are:

  • The vessel is required to report its conditions on board and does so through the Panama Maritime Single Window System (VUMPA, its acronym in Spanish). In the case of non-compliance and/or providing false information, it is subject to penalties and/or restrictions.
  • A Panama Canal admeasurer embarks and confirms the questions included in the Maritime Health Declaration through a form previously completed in the VUMPA.
  • The admeasurer also questions the vessel’s captain or official in charge once again in order to confirm that there are no confirmed or suspected cases on board.
  • If there are any confirmed or suspected cases on board and depending on the symptoms presented it is concluded that the virus is present, the maritime health arm of Panama’s Ministry of Health (MINSA, its acronym in Spanish) is called onboard. During this time, boarding and disembarking is prohibited for people and the yellow flag is flown, denoting that the ship is under quarantine.
  • Next steps are determined following MINSA’s inspection.

In response to COVID-19, the following additional measures have also been taken at the Panama Canal:

  • Vessels are required to report if and when crew changes occurred within 14 days of arrival at ports with COVID-19 cases to MINSA.
  • Panama Canal admeasurers must contact vessels via radio before boarding to confirm all crewmembers onboard are healthy and to verify any recent crew changes.
  • Panama Canal personnel boarding the vessel are always equipped with alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel. The use of masks is optional.
  • The Panama Canal has rigorous processes to ensure that all personnel boarding vessels are healthy and have not been in contact with any positive or suspicions cases.
  • Constant communication is maintained between the Panama Canal and MINSA’s maritime health doctors.
  • MINSA has sent a communication to all shipping companies, requiring that they report any person who has any illness-related symptoms, regardless of whether or not they are related to COVID-19.

For information about operations in Panama, contact GAC Panama at [email protected]

Source: Various Panama Canal Authority Advisories to Shipping

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