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Panama Canal Authority, US National Response Team Annual Emergency Response Exercise

JUNE 30, 2017--The week of June 26, OR&R Emergency Response Division (ERD) staff participated in the Panama Canal Authority (ACP)/US National Response Team (NRT) annual emergency response exercise, EcoCanal '17, both in Panama and the US. As part of the exercise, ERD sent its ACP-NRT Sub-committee member to Panama to act as a controller/evaluator for the exercise, while the NOAA NRT representative played his role in the exercise from the office in Silver Spring.

For purposes of exercise, the scenario involved an imagined event involving two ships colliding in the Panama Canal causing an environmental threat from the release of hazardous cargo and the potential closure of the Panama Canal. During such a scenario, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the ACP and the NRT for aid of personnel, resources, and expert consultation would be activated. The US Embassy in Panama also participated and tested their responsibility to evacuate US citizens who may have been involved in such an incident.

The MOA was signed in 2002 between the two agencies to ensure the rapid ability to supply emergency response capabilities to the Canal Zone to minimize any impact to the Canal, both environmental and economic.

In addition to the notification tabletop exercise, the ACP conducted training and a separate exercise around the transport and response to a liquefied natural gas (LNG) incident in the newly built, expanded locks. This month marks the one-year anniversary of their opening.

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A woman and two men reviewing a document at a table.
JoAnn Eskelsen (EPA), Cesar Morillo (Panama Canal Authority), and OR&R’s Ed Levine review the exercise handbook for controllers and evaluators for the EcoCanal ‘17 exercise in Panama City. Image credit: NOAA.
Last updated Tuesday, November 8, 2022 1:51pm PST