Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Panama Canal

Enroute to the Pacific, a Maersk Line container ship enters the Miraflores Locks. In the background another container ship sits high in the Pedro Miguel Locks, waiting to be lowered to Miraflores Lake. (The orange tanker has already passed through Pedro Miguel, on its way to Miraflores.)

It only takes about 12 minutes to pump the water out of the lock, lowering the ship to the level of the next lock.

The locomotives, or "mules" are used to keep the ship centered in the lock. In some instances, clearance may be only two feet on each side

The canal fees for passage of the "Nysted Maersk" are $96,726. Costs depend on the ship's size and displacement. But passing through the canal saves an 8,000-mile, two-week voyage around Cape Horn.

The lock in the right foreground is ready to receive the orange ship.

The "Nysted Maersk" cranks it up and heads for the Pacific, just around the bend. It takes roughly 8 to 10 hours to make the 50-mile crossing through the Canal.

The Norwegian chemical carrier "Jo Sypress" entering Miraflores. In the background the container ship is through Pedro Miguel and will use the "other lane" at Miraflores Locks. In the morning, traffic tends to be from Pacific to Caribbean, while afternoon traffic is reversed. The locks operate around the clock. Large vessels transit in the daytime, smaller ones at night.

Moved into the lock, the aft gate has been closed, and water is being pumped out of the lock. It is so fast, you can watch the water level drop.

The lock gate opens allowing the ship to enter the second stage at Miraflores. The Panama Canal locks essentially form a water bridge, lifting ships over an 85-foot "hump" in Central America's spine.

The "Jo Sypress" passes through while another ship is moved into position in the other lane. Roughly 38 ships pass through the canal each day.

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