Panama Canal to close Dec. 31, 1999 : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

One of the first major Y2K disruptions-to-be is already known: the Panama Canal will be shut down on December 31 due to suspected Y2K failures in its traffic-management systems.

"If disruptions involve countries that either buy or sell U.S. goods, we will feel the impact," Sen. Bennett is prepared to say to the Special Senate Committee, according to this Knight Ridder report (link below).

For the record, this disruption does involve countries that buy and sell U.S. goods. We will absolutely feel the impact. Statistics below...

Story at:


This web site offers a Panama Canal web cam, showing the current status of just one of the locks:


The Panama Canal shutdown qualifies as a major disruption. In 1997, 13,158 vessels used the Canal, carrying 189 million tons of cargo. Anybody calling this "no big deal" is lying to you. If it wasn't a big deal, they wouldn't have built it!

Once again, we submit that people wouldn't be using the canal if it didn't offer a major advantage to business. The Panama Canal is critical to international maritime shipping. Without it, ships would have to sail around the tip of South America -- a feat that adds tremendous fuel and crew costs to each shipment and can't be accomplish year-round, to boot.

If the canal is shut down for just one day, it won't have a major economic impact. But for exactly how long is this going to be off-line? With this shipping shortcut off-line for anything more than a week, the U.S. economy starts to feel the impact.


Talk about brilliant timing: due to a treaty signed by former President Carter, the U.S. Naval Station at the Canal will be turned over to the Panamanians on exactly 12/31/1999, and the U.S. troops will be sent home. What's the big deal here? If things get messy, we have no way to militarily control the Canal. Figure it out: U.S. Navy vessels can't go from the Atlantic to the Pacific without the permission of Panama. This would dramatically harm the ability of our U.S. Navy to respond to threats, essentially splitting the fleet.

At a time when nuclear military secrets seem to be spilling to China every four years, and where our technology has now given China the capability to hit the United States with nuclear missiles, we certainly need to maintain military readiness in the Pacific. China is still a communist regime, after all, and they may use Y2K to their advantage in a quick land grab (such as the Spratley Islands).


Believe it or not, one tour company:

... is promoting tours to the Panama Canal. Their web site reads: "Be in the coolest place in the world when the clock strikes 12:01 AM on Jan 1, 2000 ...In the PANAMA CANAL on our The Tour of the Millennium."

It sounds like it's going to be the shortest cruise in history, populated by the most dumbfounded passengers (and crew) on record. Somebody should film the entire trip to document human stupidity "in the field." What kind of person, exactly, thinks the coolest place to be on January 1, 2000, is on a boat in the Atlantic Ocean, hundreds of miles from your home country, dependent on computer-controlled communications and navigation equipment, and turned away from a shut-down Canal no longer even manned by U.S. troops?

That takes a strange sense of adventure, for certain.

---- The above is an EXCERPT from

-- Mr. Kennedy (, March 15, 1999


Mr. Kennedy, good to see you back. If you haven't seen it check out the North Carolina roll call thread from last week.

-- Puddintame (, March 15, 1999.

Mr. Kennedy,

Nice catch.

The reporting on the pharmaceutical (sp?) industry with 80% of ingredients being imported & thus availability impacted by y2k should have been a flashing neon sign to anyone. The obvious question being: What other imports will be affected?

Now it looks like this story about the Panama Canal should hit mainstream. How long will it take for people to start putting 2 + 2 together?

-- Deborah (, March 15, 1999.

Remember Ed's thread about military indicators? If our troops don't pull out of there as scheduled, could be one.

-- margie mason (, March 15, 1999.

"due to a treaty signed by former President Carter, the U.S. Naval Station at the Canal will be turned over to the Panamanians on exactly 12/31/1999."

There is no "if we will leave the area"... We will be leaving period, unless the Panamanians admit to being incapable of operating without the US. That's not likely.

IF the US military remains in the area, something is definately wrong.

****Puddintame***** good to be back. I've had to lurk on the fly lately. Among many other vast projects, we had our first successful meeting on Y2K preparations with a Raleigh church organization yesterday (over 100 participants). There are more follow-up meetings dealing with practical issues, like inviting a Red Cross person in to teach first aid and CPR, shelter or root-cellar building classes, finance discussions, etc. Exciting times.

I'll try to locate the NC thread you've referenced.

Regards! Mr. K

-- Mr. Kennedy (, March 15, 1999.

You neglecting something - James Carville has already been helping Chinese-funded politicians to compaign in the recent Panamanian elections. This will help consolidate their (the Red Chinese) influence over bases and port facilities already established in "commercial zones" at both ends of the canal.

Can you say "extortion"?

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (, March 15, 1999.

I would like some solid verification of this. AFAIK, the locks are all still controlled manually. While scheduling which ship enters which lock, and when, may use computers, it is a slow enough operation that it could be done without them and still see little if any degradation of throughput .

-- sparks (, March 15, 1999.

Sparks, that's I'm more concerned about who controls the people who control the canal locks, than what embedded chip controls the power that actaully moves those locks.

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (, March 15, 1999.

Hey ,

the Panama canal is based on a system built in the 1920's which to this day still operates the entire series of locks. The technology is in no way date related and most is operated by hand. Taking about five minutes per lock for a ship to navigate the entire process is manipulated through knobs and valves laid out in minature on a control panel in each station. Electrical power is not needed as each set of doors is being run by a small generator motor about the same horsepower as a motorcycle.

-- (Panama@Red.bong), March 15, 1999.

Oh, I'm in complete agreement with you, Robert, regarding who controls the controls - it's a very serious situation for the free world. My response was to the initial post.

-- sparks (, March 15, 1999.

Sparks - Since the Panama Canal is now being slowly delivered into the hands of the Panamanians, we can all agree that being in "good company" with the officials of Panama is an advantageous position. China knows that as well. Seeing as how they still commemorate the 20 killed in the US/Panama confrontation over a Panama Flag in the canal area in the '60's....well, let's say they don't miss our friendship too much.

In regards to the physical operation of the canal, the locks can and are shut down exclusively for maintenance/repair/etc anywhere from 2 days to 16 days, with shutdowns scheduled throughout the year. The Panama Canal Commission is not just addressing the locks, but also address the vessels that use the locks and have to guarantee safe passage. To do that, they are looking at the Y2K compliance of all vessels that use the canal, in addition to the canal itself.

On Panama Canal - Maritime choose the "Advisories to Shipping" Icon. Then click on the first chapter offered in the advisories, which deals with their present position on Y2K.

The Commission says, among other things: Ship owners must be aware that some of these computer systems may have problems and fail on the change of date to the year 2000. Some of the systems that may be affected are:

Engine control systems Rudder control systems Navigation equipment, such as GPS, radars and electronic chart systems Cargo control systems Vessel movement recorders Alarm data loggers Communications systems

Port State Control authorities throughout the world are already requiring Year 2000 compliance as part of the ISM Code requirements. Auditors and Boarding Officers are checking for documentary evidence that the potential risks associated with this problem are being addressed as an integral component of the vessel's risk management approach.

The U.S. Coast Guard is also contemplating making Year 2000 compliance part of the checking procedures. Coast Guard regulations include requirements for commercial vessel operators to conduct periodic equipment and systems tests, as well as inspections of safety, navigation and pollution prevention equipment and systems. For example:

Title 33 CFR part 164: Requires certain vessels to conduct arrival and departure tests to ensure proper operation of vital navigation equipment and systems. Title 33 CFR part 156.170(c)(5): Requires similar tests for facilities to ensure operating or indicating equipment properly perform their intended functions.

Such tests help detect malfunctions or failures of equipment and systems regardless of the cause.

The Panama Canal is not planning to address the Year 2000 issues through new regulations. Our goal is to use existing authority to respond to these risks with a sufficient level of control to prevent casualties.

Port Captains, Boarding Officers and Transit Vessel Inspectors will ensure compliance with existing testing and inspection requirements during boardings and inspections. They will in turn take all necessary action as authorized to restrict or control the movement of vessels in Canal waters.

Vessel movement controls, such as tug escorts for certain vessels, could be imposed to those vessels not able to demonstrate compliance with Year 2000 requirements.

Panama Canal Regulations state the following:

Title 35 CFR ' 109.5: Ship's gear to be ready during transit; test: "Before beginning transit of the Canal, The Master shall assure himself, by actual test, of the readiness of his vessel's main engines, steering gear, engine room telegraphs, whistle, rudder-angle and engine-revolution indicators, and anchors."

And, of course, it goes on to enumerate the other rules that will regulate traffic or passage through the canals, without making new regulations just for Y2K.

Interesting site. Wonder why no real fanfare for the first Naval Base turned over to their custody just 4 days ago? One Naval Base down, 4 to go....

Mr. K

-- Mr. Kennedy (pan@ama.canal), March 15, 1999.

Besides obvious trade problems, think of the military implications. Our Navy vessels from the West Coast may not be able to go to the Persian Gulf if necessary, or vice versa. I'd be willing to bet that we will have to seize control back from Panama within the first 6 months of 2000.

-- @ (@@@.@), March 15, 1999.


This may help you find verification (I hope): shtml

There are many more articles re the Canal at WND. Use the search engine, and you'll get a two-page article list.

-- LP (, March 15, 1999.

Thanks much for the replies, Mr. K and LP. Will check it out!

-- sparks (, March 16, 1999.

Boy - that would be a subtle way to put pressure on any countries that export to Tawain, or receive goods from tawain, or any Tawain ships for that matter - stop the ship, declare it non-Y2K compliant based on any given excuse the Chinese inspector-in-chief (cheat ?) wants (a report, no report, bad report, wrong form, no test, wrong test, not-the-right-test, whatever), then hold the ship for a few days while the owner tries to figure out how to get the right paperwork.

In the meantime, the ships of those nations that don't trade with Tawain just go right on by........

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (, March 16, 1999.

Thank you, Mr. Cook. We hadn't thought of that.

-- hung wei lo (, March 16, 1999.

In the meantime, the ships of those nations that don't trade with Tawain just go right on by........ -- Robert

Exactly. Interesting ploy, isn't it? Especially in the hands of infant watchmen playing with newfound power.
Mr. K

-- Mr. K (danger@hand.laws), March 16, 1999.

Robert, I went to China Daily Newspaper and found 20 articles that in some way referenced Panama (not always political). In fact, hardly any political. When I found 2 articles I wanted to read, 17. Latin American Trade Ties to Strengthen and 19. Expo Organizer Expands Efforts to Boost Exports, it was very odd how those two articles, and only those two were "not found" on the server. Articles from 2 years back were accessible, but not these.... I find that very suspicious. This non-political article offered information that China is engaging in "friendly" exchanges specifically with Panama, and interestingly points out vividly that China has no diplomatic relations with Panama or Grenada...- A Chinese acrobatics troupe went on a tour and performed in 12 Caribbean and Central American countries from June to September, China's longest performance abroad in 20 years. The countries included Panama and Grenada, with which China has no diplomatic relations. I heard no National News Fanfare over this one.....only 4 days ago: US Hands Over Naval Base to Panama By Kathia Martinez Associated Press Writer Thursday, March 11, 1999; 6:08 p.m. EST PANAMA CITY, Panama (AP) -- The United States formally handed over its Rodman naval base to Panama on Thursday, the first of five military bases to be turned over this year before the historic transfer of the Panama Canal. dx.html ----------

I am still pondering the unlikely "coincidence" that the trade articles concerning China and Panama are missing, where other obviously older articles are still intact. Just my observation on that though... Mr. K

-- Mr. K (article@chinanews.gone), March 16, 1999.

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