13-May-2006 -- Two days ago I have joined my new ship at Cristobal-Colón, the Atlantic Terminal Port of the Panama Canal. The new confluence boat is the "UBC SINGAPORE", a handysize bulk carrier with the following main particulars:
- Radio call sign: P3GK9
- Port of Registry: Limassol, Cyprus
- Built: 2002 by Saiki Heavy Industries, Saiki, Japan
- Length: 172 metres
- Width: 27 metres
- Max. draught: 10.4 metres
- Max. carrying capacity: 31,800 tons
- Gross tonnage: 19,743
- Engine: Akasaka 6 cylinder Diesel engine, output 9,600 HP
The "UBC Singapore" is mainly employed between South and Central America, the Caribbean and the United States. Her preferred cargoes are cement, petroleum coke and grain.
This early morning at 2 a.m. we have cleared the Panama Canal and now we are underway to Manzanillo on the Pacific coast of Mexico. The cargo is petroleum coke and has been loaded at Puerto José in Venezuela.
This Confluence, 7N 80W, is going to become my very first in the Pacific Ocean and my first one in Panama as well.
The history of Panama stems from the narrowness of the isthmus (80 km at his narrowest), which formed a pass route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. The first European to sight the latter was Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, a Spanish "Conquistador" in 1513. It was the focal point for the dispatch of the Spanish expeditions north to Nicaragua and south to Peru and Chile. All trade to and from these countries passed across the isthmus. The route became known as the "Camino Real" (Royal Road).
The country was part of the Spanish Empire from 1538 to 1821, thence until 1903 Panama was a department of the Republic of Colombia, declaring its independence in that year.
The first suggestion for a canal across the isthmus was made by a Spanish engineer in 1530. Surveys were actively undertaken by various private companies between 1825 and 1890. In 1876, a concession to construct a canal was granted to a French company of which Ferdinand de Lesseps (having already built the Suez Canal) was the nominal head. This company failed in 1900 as the work to be accomplished proved greater than estimated and due to the high death toll of about 20,000.
In 1902, the United States purchased the rights and property of the French company in Panama. The Republic of Colombia failed to ratify a treaty with the United States for the cession of the territory and this led to the secession of Panama in 1903. In 1904, the Panamanian Government ceded to the United States the territory then to be known as the Panama Canal Zone, and work on the canal could be resumed.
Construction took ten years, and the canal was officially opened with the USA holding "souvereign rights in perpetuity" on 15 August 1914, when the SS "Ancon" made the first transit of the entire canal. A treaty in 1977 replaced that of 1903 and allowed for joint partnership of the USA and Panama in the operation of the Canal and the gradual withdrawal of the US military forces, which was completed in 1999. On 1 January 2000, Panama attained full control of the entire Canal area.
The Panama Canal crosses the isthmus in a general SE direction from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean for a distance of 42 nautical miles (83 km).
Beginning at the Atlantic Ocean, the sea level section extends for about 12 km to the three flights of Gatún Locks, which are about 2 km long. The upper lock opens into Lago de Gatún, the surface of which is normally 26 metres above the sea level. Corte Gaillard (Gaillard Cut) conducts the waters of the Gatún Lake from Gamboa across the continental divide for 13 km to Pedro Miguel Lock, about 50 km from Gatún Locks. The descent to the Pacific is by Pedro Miguel Lock, and two flights of locks at Miraflores. Lago de Miraflores, between Pedro Miguel Lock and Miraflores Locks, is about 2 km long, and 17 metres above sea level. The sea level section on the Pacific side is about 14 km long and ends at Balboa near Ciudad de Panamá (Panama City).
About 13,000 ships transit the Panama Canal each year. The Canal can handle about 50 lockings a day, which may include a greater number of ships as two or more smaller ships can be locked through in one chamber. Unfortunately, there is no Confluence in the Panama Canal, and so let us stop now with this description.
Nine hours after having cleared the Panama Canal we arrived at 7N 80W, a far offshore Confluence, about 52 km S of Punta Mala. Not much can be seen at such a distance in tropical air, but the coast is at least discernable. The views to NW and NNW show the densely wooded Pacific coast of Panama, and exactly North there is Punta Mala.