Today, we had the opportunity to meet with the CFO of the Panama Canal Railway Company, Thomas Morris. We learned that though it may seem they work together with the Canal, they don’t, they have their own customers and stream of revenue. Though, they do receive most of their containers from the Canal. This change of transportation modes is called intermodal transportation.
Like all of the other businesses we visited they explained why the founders chose Panama and the exact location for the rail. Their two main reasons were dual ocean transshipment and and the close proximity of the ports. Having operations in place on terminals located in the Pacific and Atlantic makes it possible to move cargo fairly quickly across the country and from one side to the other. Employees come up with models and solutions for customers to prove to them that by using rail instead of the canal they can save a lot of money by avoiding unnecessary fees. They also talked about how they help the truck industry stay in business by giving them 10% of their containers. Since rail is safer and faster the truck business has become unreliable for some businesses. They are excited about the canal expansion because new ports will have to be built to accommodate for the growing capacity, thus creating more business for them. To finalize our visit he gave us a little tour of the outside and we got to see a train start its journey across Panama.
Then, we headed to Ideal World Training, where they train marine students to navigate a ship through the canal. They provide all types of simulators that recreate different scenarios that can happen on a ship. I was surprised to find out that this field is so competitive. Currently, there are 300 applicants and only 4 available positions. It takes a very long time to be able to get a job on a ship. For example, to become a captain it takes 20 years of schooling and training. It is a demanding and rigorous career but they are paid a good amount. With the expansion of the canal they have had to prepare and made changes to their training tools and simulators. Everything that is used for the simulator had to be scaled to 1/25th of the actual ship and canal entrances. The only difficulty they came across when building this smaller replica was the weather. Humans can’t control weather, therefore the wind speed altered their operations by making it five times quicker than in real life, so students need to make decisions fast. It was a good learning experience because it made me appreciate more the maritime industry knowing the great sacrifices they make to get their job. Our visits for the day were over and had the afternoon free to start preparing for our presentations for Wednesday.