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View from the Panama Canal’s Workforce: The Cornerstone of Global Trade

The resilience of global trade flows has connected the world, rising above recent disruptions caused by the pandemic, supply chain shocks, and geopolitical conflict. By the end of this year, trade in goods is expected to outpace GDP growth, highlighting the continued need for interdependence to support local, regional, and global economies.

As the Panama Canal continues to play a predominant role in meeting global trade needs, the waterway’s operations entirely depend on its world-class workforce. Under the leadership of Deputy Administrator and Vice President of Operations Ilya Espino de Marotta and Vice President of Infrastructure and Engineering Miguel Lorenzo, workers undertake continuous improvement projects to ensure the Canal can provide safe, reliable services for thousands of vessels that transit the waterway each year.

The long-term success of the Canal is propelled by its world-class workforce, diligent operational maintenance, and commitment to supporting and cultivating young leaders.

Fostering World-Class Workforce, Management & Operations

The wide spectrum of labor from line handlers, control tower operators, and seaman, to pilots, admeasurers, engineers, meteorologists, and countless others, are the backbone and movers who drive the Canal.

Developing, supporting, and engaging every worker at the waterway is vital to ensuring the success of the Canal’s workforce and its maintenance operations. The Canal provides frequent training and collaboration opportunities to build talent, foster innovation, and advance best practices across a large and diverse number of teams.

The Panama Canal Authority’s Center for Simulation, Research and Maritime Development (SIDMAR) has trained thousands of workers and professionals—within and outside the Canal. At the Center, workers have access to advanced simulation technology that supports training around risk mitigation, community organization, and environmental education.

Left: Deputy Administrator Ilya Espino de Marotta transits the Cocoli Locks on board a tugboat at the expanded Canal. Right: Firefighters at the Miraflores Locks, on the Pacific side of the Canal, meet with Deputy Administrator Ilya Espino de Marotta. “Having the privilege of leading and supporting our outstanding workforce is the honor of my career,” said Marotta. “I know that every person who works at the Canal is vital to ensuring our entire operation functions properly,” she added.

Ensuring the Safety & Reliability of the Canal
In the past three years, the Canal has invested over $1.2 billion on maintenance programs to guarantee the continuity and efficiency of operations. These projects have included infrastructure updates to the Panamax Locks, maintenance of floating equipment, such as tugboats, preventative and corrective plans on electrical generation units, and erosion control to ensure safe passage for vessels.

As we look ahead to the winter season and FY23 supply chain planning, the Canal is investing in additional maintenance projects, deploying hundreds of workers across the many organizational departments, to ensure the waterway’s operational reliability.

“In 2023, we will conduct maintenance projects across all of our assets, ranging from dry chamber works in the locks, to dredging, to fleet and land infrastructure maintenance,” said Vice President of Infrastructure and Engineering Miguel Lorenzo. “Our workers are the real stars of the entire operation, which is why we are also investing in modernized facilities for staff,” Lorenzo added.

Supporting the Next Generation of Leaders
Alongside investments in its workforce, the Canal is also looking to the future by providing resources to uplift the next generation of talent.

Canal leaders, including Deputy Administrator Ilya Espino de Marotta, welcome the LLAC Class of 2022.

In conjunction with partners, the Canal trains young professionals through the Latin American Laboratory for Citizen Action (LLAC). Since 2019, the program has trained 500 young people from Panama to become agents of change across areas of environment, entrepreneurship, and financial education, among others.
As part of its efforts to protect the vital water resources that the waterway relies on, the Canal recently organized the “Connecting Networks for Water” forum, alongside Youth Network for the Environment and the Canal Watershed.

“Young people care deeply about the effects of climate change, especially the impacts it will have on the water that all Panamanians rely on. As harborers of much of the nation’s water supply, the Canal is intrinsically linked to this issue, and we know we cannot find solutions alone,” said Deputy Administrator Ilya Espino de Marotta. “I am always inspired by the collaboration and passion that young people bring to moving climate action and resilience forward,” Marotta added.
Source: Panama Canal Authority (ACP)

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