In the News from Panama

Panama Canal Getting High-End Software Update

The Panama Canal, long considered one of the technological marvels of the world, is about to get a software update.

New vessel management software designed by the Dutch company Quitig will bring the Canal “into the 21st Century,” according to a report from Wired magazine. The new system will “coordinate arrival times, lock and tug availability, and the crew needed to run it all,” the magazine says.

The goal is to “reduce the time ships spend waiting, and increase the efficiency of the 48-mile canal by getting more ships through the locks,” Wired reports. The old system was “a hodgepodge of systems added piecemeal over the decades.”

“It’ll make a huge difference,” Arnoldo Cano, the canal’s program manager for renewal of core maritime systems, told Wired. “We’re replacing all these legacy systems with a single integrated planning and scheduling system.”

Technology geeks around the world love the Canal for its sophisticated engineering and the scope of the project to move massive ships from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Orchestrating the traffic jam of ships moving through the Canal on a daily basis—and it can be a full day journey—requires a sophisticated planning system to schedule ships, based on a “slew of factors.” Those factors include the cargo, the arrival time and “whether they booked passage ahead of time,” Wired says.

All type of details can affect the process. For example, boats with deeper drafts “require more water in the locks, increasing transit time,” Wired notes. “It’s a very complicated process that has to be orchestrated like clockwork,” Cano says.

The new system will bring together all the existing software into one linked system. It will use algorithms and modeling to optimize every route, Wired says. Vessels are tracked with GPS systems and there is a high-speed data system through the Canal.

The whole operation is controlled from a mission control center in Panama City, covered in big screens, reminiscent of NASA’s mission control for space missions.

Take a look at the full story here.

Since the expansion, the Canal has been posting big numbers, including three straights months of record tonnage. Click here to the read the details.