Friday, August 29, 2014

Panama Canal: 100th Anniversary

A little tardy in observing the Panama Canal "Happy Birthday."  So many articles; so little time!

One of the iconic images of the Panama Canal Opening, is the familiar photograph of the SS Ancon in transit, south to north, 100 years ago on August 15th 1914.

The SS Ancon was an American steamship that began as the SS Shawmut, built for the Boston Steamship Line in 1902 at Sparrows Point, Maryland by the Maryland Steel Company.
Around 1910, the Shawmut was purchased by the Panama Railroad Company to provide shipping of the supplies required for the construction of the Panama Canal. The name Shawmut was changed to Ancon after Ancon Hill and Ancon township in Panama, home to the head of the Canal Commission. 

The SS Ancon and her sister ship SS Cristobal played a crucial role in building the canal, bringing workers and supplies, notably massive amounts of cement, from New York to Panama. 

On August 15, 1914 the SS Ancon made the first official transit of the canal as part the canal's opening ceremonies. Her sister ship SS Cristobal had made the first unofficial transit on August 3rd, delivering a load of cement. 

Five days after World War I ended November 11, 1918, the United States acquired the Ancon and she was outfitted as a troop transport to bring our soldiers home from Europe. 

The USS Ancon was commissioned March 28, 1919 with Lt. Comdr. Milan L. Pittman in command. The USS Ancon was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet's Cruiser and Transport Force where she made two round-trip voyages from the United States to France to bring American servicemen home. 

The USS Ancon's brief Navy career lasted only four months. Following her second voyage, she was decommissioned at New York City on July 25, 1919. Adapted from "Know We Know Em," by Carl Leonard. 

The Expansion Program registers an overall progress of 78 percent, while the new locks project is currently 73 percent complete. Original projections had the Expansion Program wrapped up by now, with operations beginning this year!

But construction, funding, and labor walkouts move the opening in late 2015.

There are numerous jaw-dropping photos taken during construction of the Third Locks. It is one frigging massive trench!

The existing Panama Canal Locks 1 and 2 - parallel lanes - use powerful electric locomotives, referred to as "mule's", made by Mitsubishi, to guide vessels through the locks.

Beside the jaw dropping immensity of the Expansion Project, two innovations are immense:

•  The use of tugs, instead of mules, and rolling gates, instead of miter gates, to processs vessels through the locks.

•  And the 3.7 mile long Pacific Access Channel, contained by the Borinquen Dams.

Of particular interest to me is the innovative design of the new lock systems, described by some as "one of the most complex and fascinating infrastructure from all times."rolling gates," as opposed to miter gates.

Moreover, water used to fill or empty the lock - raise or lower a vessel - will be recycled in a closed loop system known as Water Saving Basins.

This system is not the first of its kind. Water Saving Basin concept has been at work in Germany since 1976.  Uelzen I and Uelzen II Locks use this system on the Elbe Lateral Canal.

What is unique in Panama is the shear size - that each basin is the size of the Empire State Building! It is predicted that there will be as much as a 60% decrease in loss of water, using this closed loop system.

Tugs fore and aft will tow the vessel into the lock chamber, and continue towing the vessel through all three chambers.

In this animation, Jorge Quijano, CEO of the Panama Canal Authority, on the Panama Canal expansion, explains the nuisances of the Third Lock concept, at the University of Florida Center for Latin American Studies, in March 2014.

Gates Delivered

A major milestone was celebrated on July 21, 2014, when the first of 8 rolling gates for the Atlantic Third Lock was moved into the lock on its transporter vehicle.

The humongous Rolling Gates began arriving  from their erection site in Spain.  These rolling gates are massive structures, each weighing up to 4,143 tons!

Here we see the 3rd set of rolling gates departing Trieste on the heavy lift vessel STX Sun Rise en-route to Colón City Panama.

This computer animation details the entire process of moving the gates from Spain to the Atlantic and Pacific Third Locks. (And it's a great music video!)

As a reminder, to fully enjoy your YouTube experience, maximize the video by clicking on the enlarge icon.  Tapping the "Esc" key, returns you to normal aspect ratio.

•  The second remarkable feature of the Expansion Project is the Borinquen Dams and Pacific Access Channel.

To construct the 6.1 km (3.7 mile) Pacific Access Channel, required excavation of 50 million cu meters (65,397,531 cu yards) of material.

To contain the channel, Borinquen Dams were constructed, guiding the Access Channel past Lake Miraflores, directly into Lake Gatun. The higher lift eliminated another set of locks.

Borinquen Dams derive the name from a road they displaced, Borinquen Road.

[Ed Note:“Borinquen” means “land of the brave lord.” It was the name the Taino Indians gave the island of Puerto Rico long before the Spanish Explores came on the scene.]

A truly amazing engineering accomplishment, the Panama Canal Expansion began in September 2007, and has been largely ignored by main stream media.

An interesting residual from the Expansion Project, was tons of specimens and data relating to the paleontological finds, conducted at various sites.

This link takes you to an April 2014 presentation, richly illustrated, documenting Expansion progress.

In closing, despite the billions of dollars expended to create a state of the art Third Lock System, it remains to a two man crew - in a humble row boat - to pass lines from massive container ships to line handlers on the lock walls ...

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Lac-Mégantic: TSB Final Report

From TSB animation of MM&A derailment
One of my faithful readers alerted me that the Transportation Safety Board of Canada had released their final findings of what contributed to the terrible oil-train disaster a little more than a year ago at Lac-Mégantic, Ontario.

It is a detailed analysis of the oil train derailment, which, as you recall, took 47 lives. More than 100 other souls were hospitalized, with 20 or so requiring extended hospital care. In addition, 40 structures, including a library containing priceless First Nations artifacts, and 53 motor vehicles were destroyed.

Recently, all of former Montreal, Maine & Atlantic (MM&A) motive power, now Central Maine & Quebec, were sold at auction. If you haven't had the opportunity, read the description presented by the auctioneer, of the fundamentally pitiable gaggle of locomotives. This is reflected in the Final Report.

¶ 1.13.1 Analysis of the Locomotive Event Recorder.

¶ 1.15 speaks to the mechanical condition of MM&A 5017, lead engine of the runaway consist. Reads like a Gothic horror story. This unit was withdrawn from the recent auction, by order of the Sûreté du Québec, as being associated with a crime scene.

¶  1.18 speaks to the infamous DOT-111 tank cars. While Canada has taken positive measures to get that junk off the tracks or complete extensive retro-fits, here in the USA we "strongly advise" to get rid of the cars, with retro-fitting staggering along.

¶ 1.23 speaks to the culture of Single Person Train Operation (SPTO.) Under Edward Burkhardt, former owner of MM&A, SPTO was argued to be superior to a two-man cab, ostensibly to reduce inattention due to "conversations," and other ridiculous reasoning. Call it like it is. Wage reduction.

¶ 1.25.16 speaks to the condition of rails and track inspections.

¶ 2.13.8 speaks to a weak organizational safety structure. I am of the opinion that will the history of train wrecks, train crews running unit oil trains, especially those carrying the caustic "Bakken Crude," need to be trained on their responsibility to operate trains in a safe manner, and management must commit to operating a safe plant, including detailed track inspection with a recognized service such as Sperry.

¶ 3.0 speaks to the findings as to the causes and contributing factors, resulting in death and destruction.

Another document brought to my attention was an article in the International Railway Journal, written by David Thomas. Mr. Thomas makes an interesting argument, beyond Edward Burkhardt's penny-pinching, there is plenty of blame  to be spread around for Lac-Mégantic

With a Unit Oil Train coming to your neighborhood, rail operators have a fiduciary responsibility to commit resources, training and accountability, to insure safe transit of hazardous materials through your neighborhood.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Epic Voyage of the Corbin Foss

I just learned of Seattle's Corbin Foss towing the decommissioned aircraft carrier ex-Constellation to a scrap yard in Brownsville Texas.

Our wiz-bang newspaper just reported it today, so I find myself playing catch-up! The tow left Bremerton on August 8th!

When I brought the Corbin Foss up on MarineTraffic, I find she is a day or so out of Long Beach! Had I known about it in real time, I could have gotten some excellent shots of the tow passing my home here in Port Townsend!

At any rate, this video, grainy as it is, is all I've been able to locate. Shot by Ron Bishop, the tow is just getting underway, traveling through Rich Passage. Rich Passage leads from Bremerton Naval Ship Yard out to Puget Sound.

Voyage by the Numbers

Corbin Foss
•  Foss Maritime, Seattle Washington
•  Built: Marine Power & Equipment, Seattle
•  Launch: 2003
•  Callsign: WDB5265
•  MMSI number: 366902220
•  IMO number: 218926
•  Length: 149.8 ft (45.6 m)
•  Beam: 40 ft (12 m)
•  Draft: 19.5 ft (5.9 m)
•  Prime Mover: 2 x ALCO 16-251F diesel engine, 4,100 horsepower @ 900 RPM.
•  Twin Screw Kort Nozzle
•  Bollard Pull: 212,900 lbs (106 t)
•  SOLAS (Compliant with Safety of Life at Sea criteria)
•  Net: 181 tons
•  Complete Tug History

USS Constellation (CVA-64, CV-64)
•  Length: 1,088 ft (332 m) overall, 990 ft (302 m) waterline
•  Beam: 282 ft (86 m) extreme, 130 ft (40 m) waterline
•  Draft: 39 ft (12 m)
•  Launched: October 8, 1960
•  Commissioned: October 27, 1961
•  Decommissioned: 7 August 7, 2003
•  Removed from the Navy List: December 2, 2003
•  June 2014, the US Navy awarded International Shipbreaking Limited of Brownsville, Texas, for the towing, dismantling and recycling of ex-Constellation.
•  Estimated travel time: 140 days.
•  Distance: Bremerton Washington to Brownville Texas, 16,000 miles
•  Crew change: Chile.
•  Too big to transit the Panama Canal, travel through the Straits of Magellan into the Atlantic, thence to Texas.
•  Tow Weight: 61,000 dead weight tons

The tow will stop for fuel at Long Beach also to clear Customs.

Bremerton Mothball Fleet

•  USS Ranger (CV 61) Type ship: Forrestal-class aircraft carrier Length: 1,067 feet Beam: 270 feet Status: Stricken, available for donation as museum or memorial Commissioned: Aug. 10, 1957 Decommissioned: July 10, 1993 Stricken: March 8, 2004
•  USS Independence (CV 62) Type ship: Forrestal-class aircraft carrier Length: 1,070 feet Beam: 263 feet Status: Stricken, to be disposed of Commissioned: Jan. 10, 1959 Decommissioned: Sept. 30, 1998 Stricken: March 8, 2004
•  USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) Type ship: Kitty Hawk-class aircraft carrier Length: 1,069 feet Beam: 282 feet Status: Out of commission, in reserve Commissioned: April 29, 1961 Decommissioned: Spring 2009
•  USS Constellation (CV 64) Type ship: Kitty Hawk-class aircraft carrier Length: 1,073 feet Beam: 282 feet Status: Stricken, to be disposed of Commissioned: Oct. 27, 1961 Decommissioned: Aug. 6, 2003 Stricken: Dec. 2, 2003

Follow the Voyage 

•  You can follow this epic voyage on Foss' Maritime Blog.
•  And you can get "real time" positioning at  (Click on green icon, "Click on Live Map.")

Friday, August 15, 2014

Welcome to Ferguson, Missouri! "A Playful City USA."

Ferguson Missouri has been thrown into the spotlight both at home and around the world following the fatal shooting of a young man, who was supposed to be settling into college this week.

What perhaps was the most disturbing message, from the Chief of Police in Ferguson, was his admonition to not to demonstrate after dark.

"Disperse well before evening hours."

To many, including older residents, that sounded eerily like a reference to Sundown Town.

Without question, we all abhor civil unrest, looting and vandalism. And nobody begrudges cops being armed with helmets, shields, and batons for self protection when facing an agitated crowd.

But the over the top law enforcement response, confronting citizens wearing left over military gear,  more appropriate in Afghanistan or Iraq, no doubt escalated the angst of Ferguson. I was stunned to see cops aiming their weapons at unarmed citizens!

Like a woman interviewed on MSNBC said, "How are we supposed to feel about freedom of speech, when we have a machine gun aimed at us?"

Ferguson or Iraq?

All of which poses a larger question concerning the increasing "militarism" of police departments.

Many combat veterans have since pointed out that the SWAT officers are more heavily armed and outfitted than they themselves were while patrolling the streets of Iraq or Afghanistan, characterizing cops as "untrained wannabes."

Actions calling into question of the veracity of the Ferguson Police Department include:

•  Sunday night, in a video captured by CNN, a police officer yelled a derogatory phrase at protesters;  "Bring it, all you fucking animals! Bring it!" the officer said in the exchange.

•  The cops showed up with a heavily armed SWAT team. Members of this police force in a town of 21,000 carried 5.56-mm rifles based on the military M4 carbine. They wore body armor, stood in front of an armored vehicle known as a BearCat, and would have been mistaken for soldiers if they weren't wearing "Police" patches.

•  Failure to release the name of the cop who shot Michael Brown, under the lame guise of "protecting" his life and family, infers the cops "circling the wagons," with more than five days to construct "their version" of events, resulting in the slaying. Fortunately, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have filed Sunshine Law requests, which stipulates that records of public governmental bodies be made open to the public.

•  Failure to release the complete autopsy reports. Again, suggesting the Ferguson PD are "circling the wagons," giving them ample opportunity to construct their version of the fatal event.

•  At one point, requesting the FAA prohibit air traffic activity over Ferguson Missouri until August 18th.  An action seen by may observers as an attempt to hide police activity in the investigation. Ostensibly, there had been shots fired at a police helicopter, prompting the ban. But an FAA investigation found that report false, and the restriction has been rescinded.

•  Placing intimidating armored vehicles on display, complete with snipers deployed on the roof. Are they to be used to mow protestors into the pavement? Worse, several video and still images show cops playing around with automatic weapons, aiming them over the crowd. God forbid an accident discharge!  

The Lenco BearCat  (Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck) has been embraced by several DoD (Department of Defense) and DoE (Department of Energy) Security Forces and, because of its affordability, low maintenance expenses, ease of use and superior armor level, are increasingly the replacement vehicles of choice for up-armored Humvees. It may also be equipped with our optional Mechanical Rotating Turret with Cupola (Tub) and Weapon Ready Mounting System, suitable for the M60, 240B and Mark 19 weapons system. (From Lenco catalog.)

•  On top of the BearCat, we see a dude playing with an automatic weapon. One wonders, is he "reliving his memories of gunning down people in Fallujah or Afghanistan?"

•  Also on the roof,  what appears to be a Long Range Hailing Device (LRAD), Model 300X.

"In a situation when a SWAT team deals with a rioting mob, the device allows the SWAT team to broadcast sound files containing warning messages. If the crowd does not respond to the verbal messages, the LRAD operator can activate the deterrent tone that can be as loud as 142 dB. 

"When used correctly, neither the LRAD operator nor nearby personnel nor peripheral bystanders will be affected by the LRAD 300X. Sound behind the LRAD unit is over 40 dB less than the on-axis forward output because of the high directionality of the LRAD. The LRAD is safe at aperture when used appropriately. We provide training to customers to ensure they understand the safety ranges and operating requirements." (From LRAD catalog.)

Your Tax Dollars at Work!

So how do police jurisdictions get their hands on military grade weapons and vehicles? Courtesy of the US Government! Your tax dollars at work!

The Department of Defense (DoD) makes this hardware available to law enforcement agencies through its Excess Property Program (1033 Program).  The 1033 Program, which has the motto "From Warfighter to Crimefighter," provides surplus DoD military equipment to state and local civilian law enforcement agencies for use in counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism operations.

St. Louis County, which encompasses Ferguson, is part of the program. St. Louis County law enforcement agencies received twelve 5.56 millimeter rifles and six .45 caliber pistols from the Department of Defense between Aug. 2, 2010, and Feb. 13, 2013.

These exchanges are occurring from coast to coast in towns and cities that are hardly considered epicenters of violent crime, let alone on par with the foreign war zones where these hand-me-downs — machine guns, armored cars and other made-for-battle items — were originally intended to be used.

Add to that, Military personnel are trained to use these appliances.  What kind of training is a cop receiving?

I don't see anything positive about the increasing militarism of of police department playing Ninja Soldiers. There are reports of cops using this equipment to serve search warrants! That approach is repugnant to most citizens, further widening the gulf between police and the citizens who PAY their wages!

Bill Maher used his closing monologue on the July 18 (2014) episode of "Real Time With Bill Maher" to take a jab at militarized police culture in America. He listed different small towns that use military-style tanks and "toys" in their police departments.

"Once you start dressing and equipping people like an occupying army, they start acting like one," he said. "Every day there's another story in the paper about cops beating innocent people." He noted that police culture isn't just borrowing equipment and machinery from the army, but also a "philosophy of overwhelming force," citing the rise in SWAT team invasions and police brutality. (From Huffington Post.)

And what are the lasting traumatic effects on the children, residents, of Ferguson witnessing an army invading their town?  The militarized police response to protests in Ferguson has driven a rare wedge between two forces that often work closely together – the two largest police departments in the area: the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and the St. Louis County Police.

Good News at Last!

Thursday night, Ferguson crowd control was taken away from Ferguson County Police and Ferguson City Police.  Thursday night, under command of  Ron Johnson, of the Missouri Highway Patrol, the demonstration did a 180° turn! Loud but peaceful, with no drama, tear gas, flash bangs, and intimidating SWAT teams.

Amazing what a little love can do, as opposed to a belligerent aggressive force!

Clear evidence that military posturing by cops incites anger, angst, and fear in the citizens. Even as I write this, lawmakers are considering legislation to "disarm" military cop paradigms.

Cops Set an Excellent Example of Law and Order 

Since the "Cops" TV series began airing, many of us have been wary about the behaviors of many of the Boyz in Blue. The part I find most reprehensible is the questioning, without an attorney, in the back seat of the cop car.

Spoiler alert. Do NOT answer ANY questions. It is your constitutional right. Two events stand out in the Ferguson Incident;

•  The Gassing and Vandalism of the Al Jazeera America camera crew.
•  The egregious violation of Civil Right of reporters from the Huffington Post and Washington Post.

Both are graven offenses, committed by cops, violating the civil rights of American Citizens. The cop in McDonald's rousting the reporters represents everything we find reprehensible about violation under color of law.

Not surprising. My deceased wife, who was married to a cop,got tired of him bringing contraband (read drugs) seized in arrests, into their home. The final straw for her was when cops brought her intoxicated husband home, rather than arrest him for DUI.

“At a time when we must seek to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the local community, I am deeply concerned that the deployment of military equipment and vehicles sends a conflicting message,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a written statement Thursday. “The law enforcement response to these demonstrations must seek to reduce tensions, not heighten them.”

The Kent State Massacre

For those who support militarization of cops, you apparently don't know about or remember the horror of Kent State University in 1967. The quintessential example of military response to civil unrest.

Four students were killed. Nine wounded. The result of a military response to anti Viet Nam student protest, characterized by Tricky Dicky as "bums."

We can only hope and pray that Kent State is not repeated, with this incredible arming of cops with military weapons and appliances.

Killed (and approximate distance from the National Guard):
•  Jeffrey Glenn Miller; age 20; 265 ft (81 m) shot through the mouth; killed instantly, with 14 year old Mary Ann Vecchio, kneeling beside him.
•  Allison B. Krause; age 19; 343 ft (105 m) fatal left chest wound; died later that day.
•  William Knox Schroeder; age 19; 382 ft (116 m) fatal chest wound; died almost an hour later while undergoing surgery.
•  Sandra Lee Scheuer; age 20; 390 ft (120 m) fatal neck wound; died a few minutes later from loss of blood.

Wounded (and approximate distance from the National Guard):
•  Joseph Lewis Jr.; 71 ft (22 m); hit twice in the right abdomen and left lower leg.
•  John R. Cleary; 110 ft (34 m); upper left chest wound.
•  Thomas Mark Grace; 225 ft (69 m); struck in left ankle.
•  Alan Michael Canfora; 225 ft (69 m); hit in his right wrist.
•  Dean R. Kahler; 300 ft (91 m); back wound fracturing the vertebrae, permanently paralyzed from the chest down.
•  Douglas Alan Wrentmore; 329 ft (100 m); hit in his right knee.
•  James Dennis Russell; 375 ft (114 m); hit in his right thigh from a bullet and in the right forehead by birdshot.
•  Robert Follis Stamps; 495 ft (151 m); hit in his right buttock.
•  Donald Scott MacKenzie; 750 ft (230 m); neck wound.

We have good reason to be fearful of a militarized police force.
Article aggregated from numerous sources