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Of Course I Still Love You is on the move...

Mr Miserable

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Hi, I'm normally to be found in the UK part of the TMC forum tracking Tesla shipments to Europe however at this stage in the quarter it goes very quiet for me (BTW bumper Q2 figures for Tesla in the offing) and instead I thought I would track OCISLY as she is moved from the east coast to the west coast via the Panama Canal.

At present she is being towed from Port Canaveral to Freeport Bahamas where she will be loaded onto what I regard as the most amazing ship ever, the MIGHTY SERVANT 1. If you are unaware of this ship, I suggest you Google her name and click on images to see what she is capable of.
Since this is the SpaceX thread, I shouldn't need to explain what OCISLY is!
Anyway, OCISLY is due to arrive in Freeport tomorrow morning at 06:00.
I will try and provide a daily update of her progress to her new abode in the hope that somebody finds it of interest.

Screenshot 2021-06-10 at 19.11.55.png
 

Mr Miserable

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OCISLY has now arrived off Freeport. All that needs to happen now is for her to be loaded onto MIGHTY SERVANT 1.
This is one of those occasions where a webcam would be really interesting to watch.
(If anybody on the West Coast is reading this, you have about 2 weeks notice to set up your webcam so we can watch the unload!)
Although we are well into the hurricane season it has been a surprisingly slow start this year and I've spotted nothing brewing that could spoil the party so far.
 
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Mr Miserable

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That is an interesting article and shows JRTI transiting the original canal locks.
The new canal locks can accommodate a width of up to 55 metres.
With the barge loaded on to the back of a ship the transit time should be much quicker and the risk of damage, or even complete loss, from weather will be very much reduced.
OCISLY's tow is now returning to Port Canaveral and so I assume she is now loaded on to MIGHTY SERVANT 1. Once she is totally secure and the ship is properly trimmed I expect to see MIGHTY SERVANT 1 depart to Panama.
The weather in the Caribbean is fine at present with weather activity centred on the Gulf of Mexico at present.
 
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Mr Miserable

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It looks like MIGHTY SERVANT 1 is underway!

UPDATE: False start! She's entered the port and is now at the dockyard. I don't know why...
 
Last edited:
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Mr Miserable

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MIGHTY SERVANT 1 remains in the shipyard in Freeport.
Meanwhile the weather is showing something bubbling up in the Gulf of Mexico that might develop into a tropical storm. There are areas of instability over the Yucatan peninsula and Cuba which would influence my choice of route to Panama. At present because of the weather I might be inclined to route into the Atlantic and then south to the Windward Passage rather than routing via the Florida Straits and Yucatan channel.
But first, she needs to leave that shipyard....
 

Mr Miserable

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Suddenly, without warning, nothing happened....
MIGHTY SERVANT 1 is still in the shipyard in Freeport.
Meanwhile, the 2nd named storm of the season, BILL, has formed in the Atlantic, well to the north of the Bahamas so will not affect OCISLY's move to Panama. The met folk also have their eye on something possibly developing in the ITCZ off Africa. It may come to nothing but it is in the breeding ground for hurricanes that subsequently hit the Caribbean. Even if it did quickly develop into something I think we are at least a week away and so plenty of time to get the hell out of Dodge (or Freeport).
 
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Mr Miserable

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The good news is that OCISLY is on the move, finally, and is on her way to the Panama Canal with an ETA of 20 June.
The route chosen is, as mentioned two posts above, via the Windward Passage, which is the gap between Cuba and Haiti.
She is currently heading southeast through the Providence Channel at just over 12 kts.
On this route she should enjoy excellent weather all the way to the canal entrance.

Screenshot 2021-06-16 at 10.38.24.png
 

Mr Miserable

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The MIGHTY SERVANT 1 has made good progress over the last 24 hours on her journey towards the Panama Canal.
She entered the North Atlantic via the NE Providence Channel and is now about 20 NM North east of Samana Cay making about 12 kts.
She will probably turn south shortly and route via the Mayaguana Passage towards the Windward Passage which is about 18 hrs away.
The weather continues to look fine for her all the way to the canal where she is due to arrive on Sunday morning.

Screenshot 2021-06-16 at 10.38.24.png
 

Mr Miserable

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MIGHTY SERVANT 1 with OCISLY onboard continues to make reasonable progress towards the Panama Canal.
Over the last 24 hours she, as expected, took the Mayaguana Passage, passed to the west of Great Inagua Island and took the Windward Passage to enter the Caribbean. Once passed Navassa Island she should be able to take up a course direct to the entrance of the Panama Canal.
She is presently making 12.2 kts but she will need to speed up a little if she is determined make her ETA of 03:00 on Sunday morning.
The weather continues to look good for her Caribbean crossing although tomorrow the seas may become a little choppy. I'll take a closer look at the weather she can expect for her Pacific leg tomorrow.

Screenshot 2021-06-16 at 10.38.24.png
 

Mr Miserable

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It's Saturday morning and MIGHTY SERVANT 1 with her precious cargo of OCISLY is crossing the Caribbean enroute to the Panama Canal.
Her speed has dropped to about 11 kts, probably as a result of the increasingly choppy conditions I mentioned yesterday. I wouldn't be too surprised if this drops further as the wind picks up a bit more later today. This is not bad weather just 'not ideal' conditions where the waves arrive at the ship beam-on (from the side) and will unfortuneately be a preview of conditions that she will encounter in the Pacific next week.
Tropical Storm Dolores which formed off the coast of Acapulco will be well clear by the time MIGHTY SERVANT 1 arrives in the region but this is the area where I think the next storm will likely form and so is the area I will be watching closely over the next week as MIGHTY SERVANT 1 approaches. The good news is that OCISLY is not being towed and being onboard the MIGHTY SERVANT 1, with its speed and agility advantage, gives the crew many more options to outmanoeuvre the worst of any weather.
In the meantime she has to get to the Panama Canal which remains at the time of writing over 350 miles away and at her present rate will mean that she will be arriving much later than planned. I don't know when her canal transit was originally booked for but I hope an allowance was made for any delays since the earliest available slot I can find for her is not until Tuesday.
Tomorrow, as she approaches the canal, I will post some more information on the canal itself and links to the applicable webcams that will allow us to watch her progress through it.

Screenshot 2021-06-16 at 10.38.24.png
 

Mr Miserable

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MIGHTY SERVANT 1 is now approaching the entrance of the Panama Canal about 11 hours later than originally planned.
Quite when she will transit the canal is anyone's guess without seeing the running order which is unfortunately no longer published.
Every vessel, without exception, has to board a Canal pilot and so the first indication of an impending transit will be the arrival of a pilot vessel alongside.

MIGHTY SERVANT 1 is too wide to use the original canal locks and so will use the new longer and wider locks that opened in 2016.
The pilot will board the ship and she will then head towards the first set of locks, the Agua Clara locks. These locks have 3 consecutive chambers which will lift the ship 85 feet up to the level of Gatun Lake.

Once in Gatun Lake the ship will sail through Gatun Lake along a marked channel towards the narrowest part of the canal at Culebra Cut. Whereas most of the canal is wide enough for 2 way traffic, here it is one-way only for wide vessels. This choke point determines whether the ship will have to wait in Gatun Lake or not.
At the Pacific end of the canal the ship will enter the Cocoli locks to be lowered down to the level of the Pacific Ocean via another 3 chambers.

The Panama Canal provides a shortcut for shipping travelling from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean and vice-versa. Instead of having to route to the south of South America and then back up, a distance of about 10,000 nm the canal offers a mere 51 mile transit. This comes at a big (well into 6 figures USD) price, calculated by a complicated formula, designed to maximise revenue to the canal operators. The original canal opened in 1914 and was an immediate success. In the first year it handled about 1000 ships and by 2008 it was handling nearly 15,000. These figures alone don’t tell the whole story because ships were getting bigger and bigger and one of the limits to the size of ships being built was the size of the locks in the Panama Canal. Ships that were built to fit (just) into the locks were described as Panamax ships. That is why so many cruise ships, container ships and car carriers are 32.3m wide and have a draft of under 12.6m. MIGHTY SERVANT 1 is 190m long and 50m wide.

The expansion of global trade and the increase in shipping meant that the canal was becoming a bottleneck with frequent delays and queues of ships waiting to transit. Fees for queue jumping became ever more expensive and ever more necessary to avoid delays. Alternatives to the canal were seriously being considered eg the NW passage and a number of alternative canal routes that avoided Panama completely. Panama relies on the income from the canal and could not afford for any of the alternatives plans to be viable and so the plan for the expansion to the existing canal system was commenced in 2007 and completed in 2016. This introduced two new sets of locks built parallel to the existing locks. Significantly, they now allow ships up to 366m long, 55m wide and with a draft of up to 15m to transit the canal. The new locks are of a modern design which use less water and are regarded as safer and more reliable too.

So a Panamax ships will use the old locks - Miraflores, Pedro Miguel and Gatun locks to transit whereas bigger ships have to use the new locks at Cocoli and Agua Clara.

The canal is big business and so is generally a pretty slick operation entirely dependent on how much you have paid. Ships are normally booked in several weeks in advance. Delays of more than 24 hours are rare and normally we can expect the ships to start their booked transit within 6 hours or so and be in the Pacific around 8 hours later.

There are webcams at the locks so you can watch the ships going through. The link to the webcams are here (I'm having a problem with the Cocoli camera which appears to have been disturbed) There are plenty of youtube videos and documentaries on the canal, its operation and construction, many of which are very good.

cfabbfa9-7989-4d9f-82b9-fdbe12efee8a-png.582713


Thanks to @Mister J for providing the above graphic.
 

Mr Miserable

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Monday.
MIGHTY SERVANT 1 remains anchored off the entrance to the canal.
I suspect that since she arrived over 12 hours late, she must have missed her booked slot.
The site I use to get canal booking information has not been updated since Friday and so I can't provide any valid forecast of how long she is likely to wait although I did note the other day that there was a slot available tomorrow.
Canal transit slots are booked months in advance by regular users and normally the canal worked with clockwork precision as ships could be relied upon to turn up on time however all that has changed in the last year or so. Firstly there was the pandemic which has played havoc with ship and crew scheduling and secondly the current severe containership delays at ports around the world. Containership schedules which previously were run to almost stopwatch accuracy have been beset with delays of over 10 days at some ports due to manning and container shortages and consequential delays as the effects rippled around the world. (The delays caused by the Suez blockage tooks weeks to clear because once the canal was reopened there were waves of delayed ships arriving that the ports couldn't handle simultaneously.)
As a consequence the Panama Canal bookings have had to become much more flexible than they were.
Scheduling the canal traffic most efficiently has been the subject of numerous university studies since the canal came into service with numerous algorithms being formulated over the years to provide the ideal solution. Despite attempts to computerise the system an operator with a chinagraph pencil seemed to do the job. The extra locks introduced by the canal expansion scheme and the physical restriction of the narrow Culebra Cut added extra complication and so now a simple wave system seems to provide the efficiency and flexibility required.
 

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