Thursday, January 21, 2016


This morning we will arrive at the Panama Canal. Considered one of the engineering wonders of the world, the canal is an exciting part of the SeaTerm for me. My first trip through was in 1975 when it was under US control, overall I probably made ten trips through by 1980. It wasn’t until 1998 that MMA finally made the decision (and commitment of budget) to make a transit. Since that time MMA has been through in 2004, 2008, 2012 and now 2016.

MMA has educated many Panamanian young men and women over the years. My recollection has it that we saw the most in the years 1985 through 1995 – when parents of high school students saw the potential for their kids when the Canal was to be reverted to full Panamanian Control in 1999. And it was a good bet for them – as today there are 28 MMA grads piloting ships through the Canal, the largest single alumni group in the organization. And there are many, many more grads working in the Panama Canal fringe operations – tug boat and dredge operators, ship’s agents and oil spill response organizations to name a few.

I sincerely enjoy my visits to Panama to see the “old grads”. And I know that they enjoy seeing their “really old professors”, fellows like Pat Modic, Will Haynes and me. I made a non-sailing trip to Panama a few years back on Academy business – of all the travels I have endured in my job at MMA – that was one of the most enjoyable. In contact with many of them, I coaxed them into getting me a transit through on a Panamax Containership (a ship with maximum dimensions to transit – 970 feet long, 106 feet beam). Why they asked? Because I have never been through on such a large ship says I. As crazy as it sounded to them, they made it happen. That was a real “vacation” within a work week for me.

When we anchor this morning in Cristobal, we will be boarded by ACP officials, as well as Panamanian government folks to complete all the paperwork and inspections of the ship to make sure we are as declared. Our plan is to heave anchor at about 1600 and make the first lock, Gatun, at 1630. I will report more about the transit later.

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