The New Panama Canal Mules
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Photos by El Seņor Jim

Eight new loco's arrived at the going price of approx $2 million each

A Japanese crew readies the delivered locomotives on the north
       center wall of Miraflores Locks.

The "Old" and the "New" ... Light bar is only noticeable
       addition in this particular picture.

New Locomotives Arrived at the Panama Canal
By Teresa Arosemena
The Panama Canal Spillway - August 27, 1999

Eight new locomotives arrived recently at the Panama Canal locks. The  locomotives are prototypes, and are among the 26 locomotives the Canal  is purchasing to increase the fleet to 108 units by the year 2002.  They  are also part of the modernization and improvement program to increase the waterway’s transit capacity.  The locomotives were unloaded from the vessel Industrial Bayou onto the center wall of Miraflores Locks,  where they will undergo six months of testing at the locks to verifies operational conditions before receiving final approval.

In 1997,  the Panama Canal Commission awarded a $54.4 million contract to Japans Mitsubishi Corporation for the purchase of 26 locks towing locomotives.  The multi-year contract includes the design and the construction of locks locomotives and accessories, as well as training of Canal personnel.  Referring to the characteristics of the new units, Abdiel Perez, who is in charge of the Canal Locomotives Purchasing Project, said, “Primarily, they should reduce maintenance requirements, which are very arduous for the existing locomotives.  In addition, they offer the operator a more comfortable environment to work in, and are more efficient.”

The eight locomotive prototypes were purchased at a cost of $2.3 million per unit. The remaining 18 will cost $1.9 million each, and are scheduled to arrive between June 2001 and February 2002.  Canal personnel will test them during one month before final approval.

An additional provision in the contract with Mitsubishi gives the Panama Canal Authority the option to purchase additional locomotives at an average price of $2.1 million per unit. This provision allows for the eventual replacement of up to 82 units, some of which were built in 1965.

Perez pointed out: “With the arrival of these units, an important phase culminates in the project to purchase new locomotives. This is the third generation of locomotives that the Canal has purchased since the its opening.”

The locomotives assist ships in their transits through the Panama Canal  locks. They are essential for the safe and expeditious transit of  vessels because they brake and keep vessels aligned inside the lock chambers.  To assist ships, locomotives move from one end to another along the tow tracks located on the locks walls, traveling up steep inclines and maneuvering on vertical and horizontal curves.

The size of the locomotive fleet has increased from 40 to 82 units since the Canal opened, to give better service to the increasing number and size of vessels that transit the Canal.  The General Electric Company built the original locomotives, often called mules.

At the moment, ships require, up to eight of the new and stronger locomotives to perform a transit.

September 27, 1999

These photographs are the exclusive property of the photographer.  Reproduction by any means is prohibited without the written permission of CZBrats

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