Sixth Day

Trip Start May 21, 2011
Trip End May 29, 2011

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Flag of Panama  ,
Friday, May 27, 2011

The other day I witnessed a vessel carrying dry goods passing through the canal at the Miraflores Locks. This vessel's final destination was Hong Kong.  Today I will board the Pacific Queen tour ship that will actually take me from the Pacific side through to Miraflores locks to the Atlantic side just as a vessel would go through.  Let me preface this for you.
Each year I take a group of students to the Port of Houston to board the MV Sam Houston  The MV Sam Houston is the Port of Houston's public tour vessel that offers a free 90 minute ride along the ship channel. Here you will see international cargo vessels and operations at the Port's Turning Basin. The Port of Houston's main container Terminal is the Barbour's Cut Container Terminal. In 2007, the Port of Houston opened another container terminal (Bayport Container Terminal) to increase the Port's container capacity. Ships arriving from the Pacific or the Atlantic could stop and unload at either Barbour's Cut or Bayport Terminal.  By taking this tour on the Pacific Queen, I will better understand the travel of a vessel though the Panama Canal from the Pacific Ocean to Port of Houston's Container Terminals. Before I left Houston, I witnessed container ships arriving at the Bayport Terminal. Although I did not know the origin of the ship, it could have come through the Panama Canal. By seeing a container ship in both Houston and Panama, students can began to put the pieces of the supply chain together better and understand the role of the canal to Houston. Since many individuals never see both the origin or destination of a vessel, this unique experience will provide a more in depth look at the vessel's journey from an domestic and international perspective.

The Pacific Queen tour began at 9:30 AM at the Flamenco Resort and Marina which is on the Pacific side. The Pacific Queen offers both partial transit tours (4 hours) and full transit tours (8 hours). I took the partial transit tour. Before any vessel can pass through the canal it must be boarded by a Panama Canal Port Captain. 40 minutes into the trip we had to wait for the Port Captain to Board to guide us in to the Canal. This took about 30 minutes. While we waited it was a amazing site to see vessels lining up behind us to enter the Panama Canal through to the Atlantic side.  During this tour we also witnessed vessels passing us coming from the Atlantic side to the Pacific side.  Once in the Pacific Ocean, you can see the Panama Bay and the Panama Skyline before passing under the Bridge of the Americas (which I visited earlier in the week).  Once you pass under the Bridge of the Americas you will pass by the Port of Balboa. Here container ships are being loaded and unloaded in Panama. You will then come to the first set of locks (Miraflores Locks) where the Pacific Queen will ascend 18 meters in two distinct steps. Then on to Miraflores Lake crossing Gaillard Cut under the Centennial Bridge to the second set of locks called the Pedro Miguel Locks.

Here the vessel is lowered 9 meters in one step.  The tour ends in the town of Gamboa where the Panama Canal Dredging Division is located. There we boarded a air conditioned bus for a 45 minute back to Falmenco Resort. The tour included complementary drinks, snacks for purchase, and lunch.

The final leg of my day ended with a special treat. Ebony Bovell, a native of Panama and former CCID (Community Colleges for International Development) student at Lone Star College CyFair, is currently a HR assistant with the new TRUMP Hotel  in Panama.  She arranged for me to get a sneak peek of  the Hotel while they complete the final month of construction. Carlos Nunez, Corporate Sales Manager, and Ebony gave me a one hour tour which included access to guest and residential areas, pools, shops, etc. Ebony, participated in the first group of CCID students from 2009-2010. She has been employed with TRUMP for about 7 months. Her task when she got hired, assist with the hiring of approximately 300 positions before they open in July. It was a great tour and seeing a former student being successful in her career was phenomenal. Thanks Ebony! 

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