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Crossing the Panama Canal

by Captain Edwin Aye Tut

On one occasion, while sailing on a round the world passage from east to west, I had a chance to command a ship through the Panama Canal, during a voyage from Houston to Long Beach.  After Long Beach, my journey would take me to Tokyo and a few othe Japanese ports.

The Panama Canal crossing and the experience was memorable and still embedded in my mind. At this moment it is nothing strange to most Asian shipboard Officers and crew.  However, one important thing friends should  know, is that the Panama Canal passes through a fresh water lake.  In those days it was under the control of the Americans.  Now it is 100% owned by the Panamanians.  Before I could navigate the ship to enter the canal with the local Canal Pilot, an  American Inspector came on board at the waiting area anchorage  to check the ship's displacements, fresh water volume and ballasting water tanks conditions. That was to verify how much fresh water and ballast water we were carrying in each tank.  They also gauged draft marks of the ships before entering the Canal.

As the ship enters the locks along the Canal, some more inspectors checked the draft marks of the ship.  After the ship passes the locks, the Inspectors check to see if the draft marks have changed.  If the draft marks are found more deeper than what it was before the ship initially entered the Canal, it would mean that my ship has pumped fresh water from the lake into our tanks as we steam through  the fresh water lake.

​The Panama Canal authority does not allow this illegal act, as the fresh water of the lakes can dry up if many ships take in fresh water free of charge!

This may not be explained in the video I am sharing with you at the bottom of this article and is something you should know from a first hand person like me.

There is another video from the BBC on the Panama Canal when it was first made. The extravagant dream of an American eventually stole over 25,000 lives…..  There is also a Museum at the Mariflor locks to share the one of the seven wonders of the Industrial World.

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