Friday, January 14, 2011

Panama Retrospective

Caught a flight out of Bocas Town to Panama City on Monday. Went to the Miraflores locks where there is an excellent museum with exhibits showing the struggle to build the canal, how it works, its impact on Panama and global commerce along with plans for the canal expansion project. The canal runs in a roughly north-south direction. The Atlantic terminus at Colon is actually to the northwest of the Pacific terminus at Panama City. The canal is approximately 88 kilometers from end to end and it takes about 8 hours for a ship make that passage. The Panama Canal was officially opened on August 15th, 1914. Ownership of the canal was transferred from the United States to the Republic of Panama on December 31, 1999.

 In the Honcho's home port of Long Beach we are accustomed to seeing very large container ships in the harbor. Those ships are too large to transit the canal, and the trend is toward more of these larger vessels. The Panama Canal Authority recognized the need to expand the canal's capacity to accommodate these ships, thus the new enlarged locks, which I believe are scheduled to be opened in 2014.

Northbound ship moving out of the lower locks at Miraflores

Here are some interesting stats:
Containers are essentially tractor trailer bodies. They come in a variety of sizes, but are measured in "twenty foot equivalents" (TEU).
The largest container ships currently in service can carry more than 15,000 TEU.
The current locks can handle ships of up to 5,000 TEU capacity (965 feet long, 106 feet wide).
The new canal locks will handle ships of up to 12,000 TEU capacity (1,200 feet long, 160 feet wide).
The busiest container port in the world is Singapore.
Seven of the top ten busiest container ports in the world are located in China.
Los Angeles and Long Beach are ranked 16th and 18th respectively.
The top three US ports (L.A., Long Beach, New York) combined handled approximately 16,500,000 TEU in 2009. Shanghai alone handled 25,000,000 TEU in the same period.
Surprised? I was too.

45 foot cruising catamaran transiting the lower locks at Miraflores
We arrived back in La Cruz to find all well with the Honcho. Over the next few days we'll reprovision, refuel and prepare for sailing again, then head out around Cabo Corrientes, the southern boundary of Banderas Bay and on to points south.

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