The art and craft of shipbuilding flourishing at Astillero Bayano

The art of building and repairing ships in Panama has not been lost, but rather forgotten, and vessels purchased in foreign countries are threatening the local industry.

Astillero Bayano has built, redesigned, and repaired some very impresive vessels, like tug boats, supply boats, barges and many other types of floating equipment used in Panama's maritime industry.

What has beed forgotten, for instance, is the up until the mid-1900's the then-Panama Canal Company very successfully built tugs, supply boats and barges at its Industrial Divison at Mt. Hope for use on the Canal. Astillero Bayano has maintained and developed this know-how and access to qualified personnel fo these types of construction.

With plans being made to expand the Panama Canal, more floating equipment will be needed and shipbuilding yards such as Astillero Bayano should be the logical sites to construct these requirements, keeping money in the country and increasing local labor opportunities. This will not only have a positive effect on the country's economy and local industry, but also on the contractors, since with the same quality standards, it is more cost effective to built and repair things locally than import.

Astillero Bayano is testimony to the fact that Panamanian shipbuilding craftsmanship has not been lost. The yard has fully-qualified Panamanian tradesmen who can construct and repair hulls of all types of marine equipment in steel, fiberglass and wood, as well as mechanical, hydraulic and electrical repairs, among others.

The yard is able to do repairs both on land or afloat. For repairs on land, the yard uses a marine railway system compsoed of 8-vessel beds. The railway is able to hold vessels up to 140 feet in length, 50 feet in beam, with 9 feet draft and weighing 600 tons.

There is also a machine shop on site where all the lathe and cutwork is done, as well as a marine chandlery with an extensive inventory of suplies and replacements for vessels. In addition, the services also include the supply of fuel and lubricants for its clients.

Since its colonial days, Panama has been a shipbuilding and repair center, but in recent years all the specialized crafstmen that create a maritime building and repair center have not been given the recognition and opportunities they deserve.

Astillero Bayano is a modern-day working example of Panama's maritime heritage that has been handed down to Panamanians since Francisco Pizarro built his fleet on the country's Pacific shores with local labor before setting sail to conquer Peru.

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Source: Boletin - Bulletin (Vol. 25 No. 45, Monday, June 19, 2006)