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New Canal Locks Design Consequences


Jim Bondoux
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The design of the new set of locks are not product of unplanned program or chance.  The main restriction at the beginning was to look for a new system that could save the largest amount of fresh water from the Gatun Lake.   The actual set of locks usually waste to the sea approximately 55 millions of gallons of fresh water each time a ship passed through them. 

For almost 20 years the engineers at the Panama Canal Authority consulted and visited several type of locks taking into consideration this issue of saving water.  Finally they found that in Europe: specially Germany and the Nederlands exist a type of locks that used a technology of recirculating water with a set of pools that saved almost 80% of the water used each time a ship pass through the locks.   This was the original concept given to all the contractors that participated in the bid.  This type of locks have been in used for years in such countries without problems.  The Panama Canal is the only one canal in the world that still use the tecnology of "mules" to pass the ships though them.  

I guess that this problem is mostly a lack of experience in this new type of procedure using tugboats.  I think that the learning curve for this will be short and this type of incident will be only extraordinary cases.

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I can't imagine how tugboats versus mules makes any difference to the quantity of water used to operate the locks.

I have taken my own boat through the canal, and had trouble controlling her when uplocking and floating on the turbulent waters flooding the lock. Line handling from the boat and from shore is critical for a safe, swift transit.

With friends we recently visited the new lock at Agua Clara and witnessed the training/practice of the crews taking the chartered "practice ship" BAROQUE into the lock. It involved four tugboats and an agonizingly slow line handling process. I submit that six or eight mules would be more effective, efficient, and cost-saving than the four tugs employed.

 

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Perhaps someone will eventually invent a higher-tech solution using air or electromagnetic force to keep a ship centered.

Coincidentally enough, we were staying on the Amador causeway this week and noticed an interruption in the flow of ships entering the Canal at one point on Thursday, possibly caused by this scrape.

Edited by Keith Woolford
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On 7/24/2016 at 9:22 PM, Jim Bondoux said:

I can't imagine how tugboats versus mules makes any difference to the quantity of water used to operate the locks.

 

 

I doesnt have anything to do tugboats vs mules with water.  In what mind does this makes sense.   One thing is the hydraulic design of the locks and another thing is the system for guiding the ships crossing the locks.  

The other locks of similar design that the engineers of the ACP visited in different countries of Europe were working without mules.   I repeat.  The Panama Canal is still a place in the world where mules are used.  The mules used to be built by General Electric but it is not longer a business for them so the new ones for at least more than 30 years are manufactured by the Japanese company Mitsubishi.   

Well.  I think that a problem right now could be the learning curve.  It is a new system and the pilots of the tugboats are still in the process of gaining experience.  So I am so sure that with time and accumulated hours of working will make them develop the skills necessary to move those big ships and masters those tugboats.  Every incident that happens are reviewed, evaluated, and corrected for future training.  So dont be worried.  In the future the amounts of incidents or accidents will be less.  Life is a process of  never ending learning from daily experiences.    

 

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On 7/24/2016 at 10:02 PM, Keith Woolford said:

 

Coincidentally enough, we were staying on the Amador causeway this week and noticed an interruption in the flow of ships entering the Canal at one point on Thursday, possibly caused by this scrape.

 

Keith

Smaller ships are still using the old system of locks.  They are located in locations separate from the new locks.   Unless you have an incident in the Culebra Cut there could be some delays because of that.   That "scrape" did not stopped the operations of the canal.   More big ships were crossing the new set of locks after this incident happened.  So It was a minor incident that did not have any big relevance on the operations.  

 

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Deforestation threatens Canal

Posted on September 9, 2016 in Panama

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rampant deforestation
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THE MIRAFLORES Lake, vital to the functioning of the Panama Canal, is facing twin attacks from deforestation and pollution.

The warning came  from Panama Canal Authority (ACP) official Oscar Vallarino during a Thursday, September 8  inspection of a project being by the North Properties company,  saying there is  evidence of the lack of measures of erosion control around the lake.

He said sediment washes into the lake, which can affect the water quality.

This analysis coincides with a report from the Ministry of the Environment about possible “breaches” in the protected area around the lake.

Environmental lawyer Susana Serracín said that the situation is “alarming” because the authorities are allowing these projects to continue.

http://www.newsroompanama.com/news/panama/deforestation-threatens-canal

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As well, the discovery and consequent destruction of some old U.S. military bunkers on the site has the knickers of some local historians in a twist.

The developers, North Properties, have the same owners as Grupo Silaba, the KIA - Chevrolet - Mazda dealers in Panama.

Bunker destroyed as part of development

Sin tregua,  maquinaria pesada demolió un  búnker y lo que parecía un túnel con otros salones utilizados por militares norteamericanos para preservar el Canal.

A bunker from World War II that used by the United States armed force on the banks of the Panama Canal was destroyed earlier this year as part of a controversial project that has caused alarm among environmentalists.

Around 74 years of history were destroyed by heavy machinery beginning in March in a field located near the Miraflores locks. The site is being developed by the company North Properties.

The bunker, constructed in 1942, is similar to one located in Quarry Heights which has been turned into an emergency crisis center.

ESCOMBROS-Segunda-Mundial-Panama-Properties_LPRIMA20160909_0119_33.jpg

http://www.prensa.com/sociedad/Bunker-patrimonio-pedazos_0_4571542843.html

Edited by Keith Woolford
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9 hours ago, Querencia said:

Strange that people are more worried about some old bunkers than the beautiful old house's torn down in the city to build high rise apartments.

Good point, with which I agree. 

In the recent podcast here on CL of the interview with Doña Inga Collins (see http://www.chiriqui.life/topic/3482-chiriqui-life-stories-inga-collins/), Inga mentioned her disappointment at the destruction of so many homes for the sake of high rise buildings. She went further to specifically mention the lack of planning that she sees as a characteristic of Panamanian culture.

When we go the PC, we see a skyline that is nice in one way (looking at it from a distance because it suggests a vibrant economy), but when viewed up close it is nothing but steel and concrete, and absent views, green space, fresh air, etc., and a feeling of being closed in. We have heard some refer to PC as the the "Manhattan of Central America". To "grow upwards" is cheaper and expedient, whereas to "grow outwards" requires so much more in terms of planning, resources, coordination, etc.

I actually see both sides of this development/expansion issue, but I do have my opinion as to what the priorities should be. However, I am a guest in this country, and [try to] act accordingly. Maybe I really am just an old geezer.

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Development under fire from new angle

Posted on September 10, 2016 in Panama

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A CONTROVERSIAL development project that has alarmed environmentalists and The Canal Authority is under attack from another quarter.

A bunker from World War II that was used by the United States armed force on the banks of the Panama Canal was destroyed earlier this year as part of the construction.

Around 74 years of history were destroyed by heavy machinery beginning in March in a field located near the Miraflores locks.

The site is being developed by the  North Propertiescompany.

The bunker, constructed in 1942, is similar to one located in Quarry Heights which has been turned into an emergency crisis center.

The 5.8 hectare site was acquired by North Properties through a public auction by the Administrative Unit of Reverted Goods in 2013.

rampant deforestation

The deforested site

The site, which has also been cleared of wooded areas, is to be used for the construction of an automotive business.

The project has been criticized for lack of pollution control, which has led to runoff entering the nearby waterway.

Now, the destruction of the bunker has raised concerns that an important part of the country’s history has also been impacted.

Company officials have maintained that they have all the required permits for the work.

http://www.newsroompanama.com/news/panama/development-fire-new-angle

Edited by Bud
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OPINION: Devastation bordering Canal

Posted on September 14, 2016 in Panama

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rampant deforestation
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Hoyporhoy, La Prensa Sep 14

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE for the devastation of land in the operating area of the Panama Canal? No one and everyone at the same time.

The Administrative Unit of Reverted lands of the Ministry of Finance sold the land; the predecessor body  of the Ministry of Environment approved the environmental impact study of the promoter; and the Panama Canal Authority gave its approval to the project.

Apparently none of the three institutions took responsibility to check that the project would not affect the Miraflores Lake, or irreparably undermine the existing forest.

Derisory fines and  lengthy administrative processes, are not intended to restore the ecosystem, but give the appearance that they did something.

Panamanians hope for more care and diligence on the part of officials who must always act in the best interests of the country.

It would be healthy to examine best measures to prevent the comedy of errors that did away with a protected area water Canal, and should be an example of good governance not a repeat of bureaucratic apathy.

http://www.newsroompanama.com/news/panama/opinion-devastation-bordering-canal

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DEGRADATION: City fumbles, Canal Authority acts

Posted on September 19, 2016 in Panama

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DEGRADATION: City fumbles, Canal Authority acts

THE PANAMA Canal Authority (ACP) is taking a stronger stance against a company accused of causing environmental damage than the capital city whose deputy mayor Raisa Banfield was once an activist in the field.

The North Properties has been pushed present a remediation plan to the Panama Canal Authority to reverse the effects of the deforestation of a site it is developing along the waterway.

The ACP has said the project has caused a large amount of sediment to enter the water, which could constitute a health risk.

The ACP has gave the company until Monday September 19  to present an action plan to remedy the irregularities.

If no plan is presented, the ACP will suspend work at the site. Work could also be suspended if the plan is deemed to be insufficient.

The project was approved in January 2015.

In addition to erosion, the agency found a number of health risks due to garbage on the site, which provided a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

The ACP has taken a much stronger stance on the project than the Panama Municipal Government, which stated that “repeated failure” to meet environmental standards “is not grounds for the revocation of an environmental impact study.”.

The project has contaminated the Caimito River, which empties into Miraflores Lake, which is in the Panama Canal basin.

http://www.newsroompanama.com/news/panama/degradation-city-fumbles-canal-authority-acts

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ACP asked to revoke concession of North Properties

It is accused of causing environmental damage at the site. 

‘Un problema de falta de coordinación’

Spanish version

Ereida Prieto-Barreiro, (UNIDAD DE INVESTIGACIÓN) 22 sep 2016 - 09:14h

The Center of Environmental Awareness of Panama (CIAM) has requested the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) revoke a concession granted to North Properties and require the company to reverse environmental damage it caused on a site in the basin of the waterway.

In the request, delivered yesterday to the Board of Directors of the ACP, it questioned why action has been delayed on the issue, which has been a problem since 2014. The group says the company should pay $830,000 in damages.

It said the ACP has a duty to protect the heritage of the people of Panama and must take action on the issue.

Environmentalists are concerned that erosion and runoff caused by the deforestation of the site will impact the quality of drinking water sources.

The group claims the ACP was made aware of the problem by a report issued in 2014, but the ACP said the data has been misinterpreted.

According to the ACP, the report "was an academic exercise to test a model of calculations in the framework of a training workshop. The document is not an official report of the ACP."

But an internal source of the ACP confirmed that the document is part of the record of investigation being carried out into North Properties.

Tuesday, North Properties delivered an action plan to the ACP to "remedy the irregularities" it caused at the site.

http://www.prensa.com/in_english/Piden-Canal-permisos-North-Properties_21_4581501807.html

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I continue to wonder at the decision to abandon the proven shoreside mule system in favor of using tugs to manage ship transits through the new locks. Now there are claims that there is insufficient tugboat capacity to safely complete the movements of the huge ships using the larger locks. A new item from newsroompanama.com:

THE International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has voiced concerns about the safety of the new Panama Canal  locks and  what it sees as a growing threat of privatization.

The ITF is holding a conference in Panama in recognition of the country’s role as a key global transport hub.

In a Friday October 21 statement the ITF , said  that the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) carried out a study in 2011 to determine the type and size of the tugboat fleet necessary to operate the new locks.

Their findings pointed towards a certain amount of personnel, tugs and other resources as well as training and operational procedures needed that are lacking today.

Despite the revised lock plans the ACP  chose not to increase its tugboat fleets.

Now the lack of vessels has been used as an excuse for chartering 12 tugboats from private and anti-union companies says the ITF

“This has led to them working longer hours for less pay, without union protection”, said the atatement

“There are particular worries over fatigue and the increased accident risk associated with it.”

 

 Accidents
The ITF commissioned a maneuverability study that determined the risks of the operation planned by the Canal and offered a series of suggestions that would reduce the risks.

 

Also, for mystery-thriller readers, I suggest a new novel by R.E. McDermott, "Deadly Straits", in which the bad guys are successful in closing the Panama Canal. It has a convoluted plot, but includes credible geopolitics, lots of good maritime stuff, good dialogue, nasty baddies, and competent Panamanians...

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On 7/24/2016 at 9:22 PM, Jim Bondoux said:

I can't imagine how tugboats versus mules makes any difference to the quantity of water used to operate the locks.

I have taken my own boat through the canal, and had trouble controlling her when uplocking and floating on the turbulent waters flooding the lock. Line handling from the boat and from shore is critical for a safe, swift transit.

With friends we recently visited the new lock at Agua Clara and witnessed the training/practice of the crews taking the chartered "practice ship" BAROQUE into the lock. It involved four tugboats and an agonizingly slow line handling process. I submit that six or eight mules would be more effective, efficient, and cost-saving than the four tugs employed.

After a $5.25B expansion, ships are scraping by Panama Canal’s malfunctioning lock doors

In this Jan. 18, 2017 photo, a tugboat guides the Ever Living, a Neo-Panamax cargo ship, through the Cocoli locks that are part of the new Panama Canal expansion project in Cocoli, Panama.
 
AP Photo/Arnulfo FrancoIn this Jan. 18, 2017 photo, a tugboat guides the Ever Living, a Neo-Panamax cargo ship, through the Cocoli locks that are part of the new Panama Canal expansion project in Cocoli, Panama.
 

COCOLI, Panama — Loaded with more than 6,000 cargo containers, the ship Ever Living prepared for the final leg of its journey through the newly expanded Panama Canal when things hit a snag: The last of the massive steel lock doors failed to open all the way.

The pilots controlling the ship and the captains of the tugboats tethered to huge vessel opted to continue guiding it through the narrowed passageway, passing nerve-wrackingly close to the side of the locks to avoid running into the stuck door.

“These are things that shouldn’t happen,” tugboat captain Mauricio Perez said. “Sometimes the only thing we can do is pray.”

 
 
 
 

Raw: Panama Canal Opens New Locks 1:42

A little over seven months after authorities launched a much-ballyhooed, $5.25 billion canal expansion to accommodate many of the world’s largest cargo vessels, they have yet to fully work out a significant kink: With little margin for error, ships are still scraping the walls and prematurely wearing out defences designed to protect both the vessels and the locks themselves.

The Associated Press traveled on a recent voyage by a tugboat guiding the Ever Living through the canal’s Cocoli locks toward the Pacific Ocean. Along the way there were multiple places where the black rubber cushion defences were visibly worn down, hanging into the water or missing entirely. In one spot a pile of dislodged bumpers sat on the side of the locks, apparently waiting to be hauled away.

Even before the canal opened in late June, tugboat pilots had expressed concern about what they said was insufficient training for manoeuvrs that are now required — and that are a radical departure from the previous system.

AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco
AP Photo/Arnulfo FrancoIn this Jan. 18, 2017 photo, tugboat Captain Antonio Wray guides the Ever Living, a Neo-Panamax cargo ship, through the Cocoli locks that are part of the new Panama Canal expansion project in Cocoli, Panama.

In the old locks, which are still in use, ships get tethered to powerful locomotives on both sides that keep them centred in the canal. In the new locks, that responsibility falls to the tugs, one tied to the bow and another to the stern.

Especially at first, pilots on the bridge of the cargo ships and tug operators would sometimes deliberately nudge up against the barriers as a way to properly align the vessels. That has lessened somewhat, but the battered bumpers are evidence that not all passages are smooth.

“The fears and dangers remain, although the boats are going through,” Perez said. “Throughout the entire manoeuvr, there are critical moments.”

The Panama Canal Authority attributed the malfunction of the lock door during the AP’s transit to a failure in a water-level sensor caused by vegetation and debris accumulated from neighbouring Gatun Lake. It said the problem has been fixed.

AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco
AP Photo/Arnulfo FrancoIn this Jan. 19, 2017 photo, a Neo-Panamax cargo ship is guided through the Cocoli locks, part of the new Panama Canal expansion project in Cocoli, Panama.

According to the authority, between June and January there were only 15 incidents that resulted in damage to locks or ships, or about 2 per cent of the 700 total transits through the new waterway. Officials say the first seven months have been a learning process but they are optimistic.

Manuel Benitez, deputy administrator of the canal, said it has been “pretty positive the way our people have been able to navigate that (learning) curve.”

And the incidents reported “have not been of a magnitude that could affect the operation of the locks,” he said. “The ships have not run aground; they continue their routes.”

Still, shipping companies have multimillion-dollar vessels at stake, and any delay due to an accident can cost them money. In perhaps the most serious incident involving the new waterway, a Chinese vessel struck a lock wall a few weeks after the June inauguration, gashing its hull and delaying its itinerary.

AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco
AP Photo/Arnulfo FrancoIn this Jan. 16, 2017 photo, a heron rests on a lock gate near protective bumpers, top left, torn by passing ships in the Cocoli Locks of the Panama Canal, Panama.

The Canal Authority declined to say how much money is being spent on repairing the new bumpers or whether such repairs have been forced ahead of schedule.

Captains who navigate the canal told AP the defences were anticipated to last at least a couple of years before wearing out. Pilots have argued they should be replaced with a system of floating bumpers like those used in some European locks.

Authorities say they intend to continue to operate with the current system of defences, though they don’t rule out changes as part of future upgrades.

“Thanks to the expertise of our practices, these incidents are happening less and less,” Benitez said.

Some experts say it’s still early to make a final judgment on the locks’ safety.

AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco
AP Photo/Arnulfo FrancoIn this May 11, 2016 photo, a variety of water vessels cross through the Miraflores Locks in the Panama Canal in Panama City.
 
As a major Latin American hub of finance, commerce and transportation, the Panamanian capital is a growing destination for business travelers. For anyone looking to duck out of a convention center for a few hours, fill a gap between meetings or even if you've just got a long layover at the airport, a visit to Panama City's No. 1 attraction and its newly expanded locks makes for the perfect side excursion.

“It seems there is a consensus between authorities and captains to pay more attention (to) the issue of the defences,” said Paul Bingham, vice-president of the Boston-based Economic Development Research Group.

“I do not know if it is a design flaw or evidence of how the walls of the locks may need to be better protected,” he said via email. “It is possible that the operations of the tugs in controlling the vessels inside the lock chambers need to be improved as well.”

There have been notable improvements in operations. Average transit times have dropped to 2 1/2 to 3 hours, according to the tugboat pilots, compared with 4 hours when the locks first opened. With experience, captains have become more comfortable taking ships straight down the centre of the locks, especially when weather conditions are favourable.

http://news.nationalpost.com/news/world/after-a-5-25b-expansion-ships-are-scraping-by-panama-canals-malfunctioning-lock-doors

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Expanded Panama Canal Still Facing Problems

D94FE3FE-C654-44EE-872A-083649298889_w1023_r1_s.jpg

REUTERS: A gate is opening to a Chinese COSCO container vessel navigating through the Agua Clara locks during a ceremonial pass through the newly expanded Panama Canal on June 26, 2016

Over seven months have passed since Panamanian officials launched an expansion of the world famous Panama Canal.

Officials agreed to the expansion so that many of the world’s largest cargo ships could easily pass through the canal. Yet the Associated Press reports the $5.25-billion project has problems. It says ships continue to rub against the canal’s walls and wear out defenses designed to protect both shipping and the waterway.

The Panama Canal has been in operation for more than a century. The United States completed the canal in 1914. The waterway remained under U.S. control until the end of 1999, when it was given to Panama.

A dangerous system

The canal links two oceans – the Atlantic and the Pacific -- through a system of locks. The locks are like steps. They raise and lower ships from one part of the waterway to another on their trip from ocean to ocean.

With the old locks, which are still in use, large ships would be tied to powerful locomotives on both sides. These engines help to keep the ships in the center of the canal. In the new locks, the ships are tied to tugboats. One tugboat is tied to the front of the ship, with the other tied to the back. These boats then guide the ships through the canal.

At first, pilots of the cargo ships and tugboat operators would sometimes try to rub the boats against the canal walls as a way to keep the ships straight. But this caused damage to rubber padding lining the walls.

In one case, a ship called “Ever Living” tried to pass through the canal when one of the massive steel lock doors failed to open all the way.

The ship’s pilots and tugboat captains decided to continue using the tugboats to guide the ship through the narrowed passageway. But to avoid the stuck door, the ship came dangerously close to the side of the lock walls.

"These are things that shouldn't happen," tugboat captain Mauricio Perez said. "Sometimes the only thing we can do is pray."

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Panama Canal Expansion

Not enough training

Even before the expanded canal opened in June 2016, tugboat operators had expressed concern about the new system. Many asked for more training.

"The fears and dangers remain, although the boats are going through," Perez said.

The Panama Canal Authority reports that, between June and January 2017, there were only 15 incidents that resulted in damage to locks or ships. That represents about 2 percent of the 700 times ships have sailed through the expanded canal. Officials say the first seven months have been a learning process, but they remain hopeful.

Manuel Benitez, deputy administrator of the canal, said it has been "pretty positive the way our people have been able to navigate that (learning) curve." Benitez felt that the problems that have been reported were not enough to affect the operation of the locks.

Still, many ships are carrying containers with goods, and any delay because of an accident can cost them money.

In perhaps the most serious incident, a Chinese ship hit a lock wall a few weeks after the expanded canal opened, and made a hole in the side of the ship. This forced a delay in the trip.

The Canal Authority did not say how much money is being spent on repairing the new rubber bumpers.

Captains who navigate the canal say the defenses were expected to last at least a few years before they wear out. Pilots have argued they should be replaced with a system of floating bumpers like those used in some European locks.

Officials say they plan to continue operating with the current system of defenses, but changes could happen in the future.

"Thanks to the expertise of our practices, these incidents are happening less and less," Benitez said.

A delicate operation

There have been important improvements to operations at the Panama Canal, according to the Associated Press. Tugboat pilots say average travel time through the canal has dropped to two-and-a-half to three hours. It was four hours when the locks first opened. With experience, captains have become more at ease taking ships straight down the center of the locks, especially when weather conditions are good.

But it's still a delicate operation.

As the 334-meter-long Ever Living moved into the 426-meter lock chamber, workers tied the ship against the walls to keep it in place while it waited to move to the next lock. The tight space left little room for the tugboats, both in front of and behind the ship.

Tugboat captains still fear their boats could be crushed against the walls if things get out of control during bad weather.

Captains also regret that no wall was built at the entry to the Pacific Ocean side. They say such a wall would help to keep the ships straight and protect them from fast water currents. This is where the Chinese ship had its accident.

I’m Phil Dierking.

 

http://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/expanded-panama-canal-still-facing-problems/3718472.html

 

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