Fender Benders on Water? (See: Expanded Panama Canal)


NY Times:

Fender Benders on Water? (See: Expanded Panama Canal)

It is a section of Panama’s newly expanded canal that has troubled veteran canal workers.To safely guide the new generation of massive ships through the two sets of locks, tugboat captains and ship pilots rely on an approach wall to properly align the vessels before escorting them into the first narrow chamber.
The wall is an antidote to the currents and winds that push and pull ships into awkward angles, making tugboats wrestle the elements before achieving the proper position.

Each entrance has this structure — except one. And it was at this opening on the afternoon of July 21 that the Chinese container ship Xin Fei Zhou struck a lock wall, tearing small holes in its hull — canal officials call it a dent — and forcing it out of service. The new canal was not even a month old.
Another container ship had experienced tense moments three weeks earlier as crew members responded to “countless” instructions from a canal employee who was attempting to guide it into the same set of locks.

Ultimately, that transit was successful. But the Xin Fei Zhou’s mishap was not the canal’s only setback. Other vessels have sheared or badly damaged up to 100 buffering fenders that are supposed to protect the lock walls and ship hulls should they come into contact, according to interviews with canal workers.
Several days before the expanded sea lane opened — nearly two years late and with more than $3.4 billion in disputed costs — an examination by The New York Times raised questions about its viability, citing concerns over safety, design, changes in the world’s shipping patterns and demand.

Canal workers had expressed concern about whether the plastic fenders on the lock walls would be adequate and whether tugboat captains had received the proper training in how to guide the giant ships through the chambers — a procedure that differed from the one used in the original canal.

So they’re having problems with unloaded container ships. I wouldn’t want to be the first to take a fully loaded ship through.


When the new (wider) Chinese Nicaraguan Canal is built, all this will be beside the point.



Let us pray that the canal in Nicaragua never gets built. This would disrupt not only the local people, but worse than that the ecological damage would devastate the area for decades or longer.


Well … all the water would rush out of the Pacific Ocean into the Caribbean.

And the Earth would tilt.

So … No … Not decades.


The concern is the poisoning of Lake Nicaragua


Why dont they just make a standard for container ship sizes and not go any bigger? Seems like common sense to me.

I realize they want to cram as much junk on each one as possible, but we dont see semi truck companies making those bigger than the roads can handle, just so they can get more in each load, they just send more trucks.


Most ships don’t use the great canals of the world (Panama and Suez), plus it is easier to increase the size of ships than to add more dockage in the ports of the world. Bigger ships also require less crew, fuel, and maintenance than more numerous smaller ships.

Making trucks larger is a nonstarter because the road authorities of the world will not widen the driving lanes. That’s a given. But Panama wants all the canal tolls it can get.



If there was a one-dictator dictator for the whole world, then it might be “rational”.

Of course, the one-dictator dictator for the whole world might also have insisted on keeping rotary phones forever, instead of allowing digital push button phones.


It’s not at all funny, really. Letting saltwater into a fresh lake that sources water for a whole country would indeed be catastrophic.

It would be comparable to the salting of Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela, in the 1900s when the neck of the lake was dredged out to admit ocean shipping. The salt came in as well, and the ecology of a large region was permanently changed.

A web search shows that the Nicaraguan Canal seems to be financially stalled. Hopefully it stays that way.



Seems likely. This is from the NY Times:

Lost in Nicaragua, a Chinese Tycoon’s Canal Project

BRITO, Nicaragua — A Spanish explorer conducted the first survey to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans here in the 16th century. Napoleon III of France dreamed about it. The railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt briefly had rights to do it. Nicaragua’s history is littered with dozens of failed canal schemes.But when a Chinese billionaire, Wang Jing, officially broke ground in a field outside this sleepy Pacific Coast village about a year ago, many Nicaraguans believed that this time, finally, they would get their canal.
And not a small one, either. Three times as long and twice as deep as the Panama Canal, it would slice 170 miles across the southern part of the country — bulldozing through fragile ecosystems, virgin forests and scenes of incredible beauty. It would allow for the passage of the world’s largest ships, vessels the length of skyscrapers that are too big for the Panama Canal.

Yet 16 months later, Mr. Wang’s project — it would be the largest movement of earth in the planet’s history — is shrouded in mystery and producing angry protests here. President Daniel Ortega has not talked about the canal in public for months. And there are no visible signs of progress. Cows graze in the field where Mr. Wang officially began the project.
Experts say they are baffled by Mr. Wang’s canal. It may be backed by the Chinese government, part of its growing interest in Latin America, or may simply be a private investment cast adrift by the convulsions of China’s stock markets and its slowing economy.
At the time of the groundbreaking in December 2014, the Chinese government said it was not involved with the project. This and Mr. Wang’s recent setbacks — he has reportedly lost about 80 percent of his $10 billion fortune — make some experts say the deal is probably dead.


For quite some time, “Panamax” was such a standard. The term referred to the largest ship which could still fit through the Panama Canal. However, as the maritime and naval industries modernized, economic efficiency and military exigency placed increasing strain (and increasing abandonment) on the Panamax standard. Did a ship truly need to pass through the Panama Canal? If not, then going bigger paid off.

There are similar “max” standards for other waterways or ports: Suezmax, Seawaymax, etc. However, ship designers have no reason to be constrained by the limitations of those standards if a ship’s mission does not involve using such locations.


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