06-Jun-2006 -- We have discharged our cargo of clinker in the Panamanian port of Bahía Las Minas (9°22'N 79°48'W – close to the Atlantic entrance of the Panama Canal), and we are dirty again, so washing the deck and later the cargo holds. This is done by fire hoses and seawater first, and the stubborn residues will later be removed by hydrochloric acid.
Recently a reader asked me how it is possible that a ship sometimes carries rather nasty cargo as coal and cement, and sometimes foodstuff as grain or yellow corn. After discharging the cargo holds are thoroughly washed and all residues of the previous cargo are meticulously removed. Once the ship has arrived at her loading port, her holds have to be perfectly clean, free of dust, rust, and smell. Shippers (exporters) of the cargo do usually appoint an independent surveyor which checks the ship for cleanliness. Until he has issued a respective certificate, loading cannot commence. If the ship is not satisfactorily clean and considered not ready to load, it is a disaster which causes delays and high costs.
Until Puerto José in Venezuela (10°05'N 64°60'W), where we are now bound for in order to load petroleum coke for Colón (Panama), we have three days time, which is more than enough for washing.
Today is a very dry day with very good visibility, which is unusual for Panama. So from this far offshore confluence, 10N 79W, land can still well be seen.
The coast we see towards SSE, and the Golfo de San Blas is rather low. Looking SSW, it is higher, and the best view we have towards SW.
If we were closer we could see that all this coast is bordered by coconut palms, broken by scattered villages and fringed by reefs with many cays.