The Expansion of the Panama Canal

The Expansion of the Panama Canal

Expected to open June 2016

A brief background

The Panama Canal will be very familiar to many of our Club Members and of course our website followers. The 48 mile (77 km) waterway in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean (via the Caribbean Sea) to the Pacific Ocean. The canal cuts across the Isthmus of Panama and is a key conduit for international maritime trade. There are locks at each end to lift ships up to Gatun Lake, an artificial lake created to reduce the amount of excavation work required for the canal, 85 feet (26 metres) above sea level. The current locks are 110 feet (33.5 metres wide. A third wider lane was constructed between September 2007 and May 2016 and is due to open in June 2016

France began work on the canal in 1881 but stopped due to engineering problems and a high worker mortality rate. The United States took over the project in 1904, and opened the canal on August 15, 1914. One of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken, the Panama Canal shortcut greatly reduced the time for ships to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, enabling them to avoid the lengthy, hazardous Cape Horn route around the southernmost tip of South America  via the Drake Passage or Strait of Magellan

Increased capacity

Scale comparison of Panamax and New Panamax specifications. [Diagram by Julia Gold and the authors] – Places

The Panama Canal Expansion is the largest project at the Canal since its original construction. The project will create a new lane of traffic along the Canal through the construction of a new set of locks, doubling the waterway’s capacity. The existing locks allow the passage of vessels that can carry up to 5,000 TEUs. After the expansion the Post-Panamax vessels will be able to transit through the Canal, with up to 13,000/14,000 TEUs. The Expansion will double the Canal’s capacity, having a direct impact on economies of scale and international maritime trade.
The Programme consists of several components:

  • New Locks (Third Set of Locks)
    • Pacific Access Channel
    • Improvement of Navigational Channels (Dredging)
    • Improvements to Water Supply
    The Panama Canal expansion is based on six years of research, which included more than 100 studies on the economic feasibility, market demand, environmental impact and other technical engineering aspects. Works on the Panama Canal Expansion began on September 2007 at a total cost of US$5.2 billion.

The Latest Cruise Ship…

Ovation of the Seas Overview

From Cruise Critic

Ovation of the Seas, the last of Royal Caribbean’s three 167,800-ton, 4,180-passenger next-generation Royal Caribbean cruise ships, will launch April 2016 in China.

Like Quantum and Anthem of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas will feature many first-at-sea innovations including RipCord by iFly, a skydiving simulator; North Star, a jewel-shaped glass capsule that rises 300 feet above sea level, providing 360-degree views from high above the ship; and SeaPlex, the largest indoor sports and entertainment complex at sea with attractions ranging from bumper cars, roller skating and video gaming to a circus school complete with flying trapeze classes.

Currently under construction at Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, Royal Caribbean has confirmed that Ovation of the Seas will be specially built with the Chinese cruise market in mind and will spend most of its time in China, with a short season sailing from Australia.

Shields ‘forgotten’ Freda ferry found in Ireland

A forgotten ferry which transported passengers between North Shields and South Shields for more than 20 years has been discovered in Ireland.

March 5th 2016

Fred Cunnincham
                    Freda  Cunningham

The Freda Cunningham, which worked on the River Tyne from 1972, was taken out of service in 1993 and sold.

Ferry operator Nexus said its fate had remained a mystery until the new owners contacted them.

Since 2006, the vessel, now named Mystic Waters, has been operating between west Cork and Sherkin Island.

Carbery Isle Ferries Ltd carried out research into the vessel’s service history and found her previous job was on the River Tyne.

Owner of the Sherkin Ferry, Rosaleen O’Driscoll, said: “It’s always lovely to find out about the history of the boats that we operate.

“She’s a great little vessel.”

Mystic Waters
                           Mystic Waters

Nexus has operated the Shields Ferry service, which transports more than 500,000 people each year, since 1972.

Shields Ferry Manager, Carol Timlin, said: “It’s really wonderful to see that the Freda Cunningham is still carrying passengers after all these years.

“We had wondered for a while what had become of her. It became a bit of a mystery.

“It’s always really nice to see a former Shields Ferry being put to good use and long may that continue.”

“Modern Express”

World Shipping News

A short video clip showing this stricken vessel being towed away from the French coast

The operation to tow a listing cargo ship away from the French coast has succeeded, maritime officials say.

A Spanish tugboat “managed to pivot [the ship], point it towards the open sea and begin towing it,” spokesman Louis-Xavier Renaux said.

The vessels are travelling westward at a speed of three knots (5kmh; 3.5mph), he added.

The 22 crew members of the Panamanian-registered Modern Express were airlifted off the ship last Tuesday.

Officials feared the vessel, which was about 44km (27 miles) off Arcachon near Bordeaux in south-western France, could run aground.

But four maritime experts were able to attach a tow line to the vessel before being evacuated.

f the operation had failed, the ship could have hit France’s south-west coast between Monday night and Tuesday morning.

Bad weather hindered rescue efforts on Sunday, two days after another tow line to the 164m (538ft) vessel was broken in rough seas.

The ship, which is carrying 3,600 tonnes of timber and digging machines, was listing at an angle of between 40 and 50 degrees.

The Atlantic maritime prefecture said it was “totally impossible to put the cargo ship upright”.

Around 300 tonnes of fuel are on board, French authorities say. The Sud-Ouest newspaper reported (in French) that emergency measures were to be put in place if the ship ran aground, in order to contain the fuel and remove it.

In 2002, the Prestige oil tanker sank off the coast of northern Spain, spilling 50,000 tonnes of oil and polluting thousands of miles of coast.

1st February 2016


Port of Tyne Wins New Contract

The Port of Tyne has announced a new commercial agreement with one of the UK’s leading importers of plywood.

In an initial three year deal with Gloucestershire based International Plywood the Port of Tyne in South Shields will provide office accommodation, cargo handling, covered storage and onward UK wide road distribution for timber products imported through the Port.

Multi-geared break-bulk vessels will import plywood and other timber products to the Port of Tyne from the Baltics and as far afield as South East Asia and South America.

It is understood that “The Port of Tyne is unique in its ability to not only manage break-bulk of non-containerised cargo but to also handle containerised products, storage and distribution providing optimal customer service.

“The Port’s ability to handle larger vessels presents not only greater economies of scale for International Plywood as larger volumes can be handled per shipment but it also creates a positive environmental benefit.”

Stuart Watts, Director for International Plywood, said: “Working with the Port of Tyne offers the ability to maximise the potential by creating a northern hub with an office based at the Port allowing International Plywood to firmly establish ourselves as one of the UK’s leading independent suppliers of plywood and sheet materials.”

International Plywood,  supplies products to leading building merchants, housebuilders and various other UK markets.
(extract from Shields Gazette)