Panama Canal tugboats to use GE engines

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has commissioned the construction of 14 new tugboats using 28 8L250 engines manufactured by GE Marine, a division of GE Transportation.

The canal authority intends to increase its tugboat fleet by 20 percent in anticipation of increased traffic and the transit of larger vessels after the completion of the Panama Canal expansion project in 2015. The expansion project aims to double the capacity of the Panama Canal, primarily by creating a third set of locks on the Atlantic and Pacific sides of the canal. The new locks will allow for the transit of Post-Panamax vessels up to 1,200 feet in length and with a capacity of 12,000 20-foot containers.

“The new tugs are needed for a variety of operations in the expanded canal, but their main particulars take into account tug assistance requirements for Post-Panamax vessels,” said Monica Martinez, vice president of corporate communications for the canal authority.

“In evaluating the bids, we looked at all components of the tug, but an important factor was the main engine life-cycle cost over 20 years,” said Octavio Colindres, director of international communication for the canal authority.

The 14 azimuthing-drive tugs will be 95 feet in length and be powered by dual 8L250 engines which each produce 3,125 hp. The tugs are currently being built at Astilleros Armon in Spain.
In June 2012, the canal authority announced the purchase of the GE Marine engines, marking the third deal between GE and the Panama Canal in the last five years.

In 2008, the canal authority ordered 26 GE Model 12V228 engines to power 13 vessels that are now in service. The canal authority ordered an additional four GE Model 12V228 engines in 2009 to use in tugs that are still being built. A total of 58 GE Marine engines currently operate in the Panama Canal fleet.

The canal authority received the first azimuthing tractor tugboat in April, with one tug being delivered every two months after that.

By Professional Mariner Staff