Wednesday, January 8, 2014


The Spanish Canal Thieves Group have announced that they will stop work if Panama doesn't pay them $1.3 billion to finish the work on widening the canal. They low-balled the hell out of their bid and then claimed, in a remarkably deceitful way, that, "there were unexpected mudslides and other unplanned contingencies that drove the cost up." That's pretty funny given what happened to the first company that went bankrupt trying to build a canal through Panama:
The technical difficulties of operating in the wet tropics dogged the project. Particularly disastrous were recurrent landslides into the excavations from the bordering water-saturated hills, and the death toll from malaria and yellow fever. In the end, insufficient capital and financial corruption ended the project. The Panama Canal Company declared itself bankrupt in December 1888 and entered liquidation in February 1889.
The U.S. Embassy in Panama had an interesting cable on the subject back when the project was kicked off. You can read it here. It has classification markings.  One of the items mentioned in the cable was funny. It mentions a quote from a Bechtel employee who said they couldn't pour the concrete required for the job for under $4 billion. Oddly, one of the "contingencies" mentioned above had to do with the extra-shoddy concrete that the SCTG tried to pawn off on the project. Alas, gone are the days when you could get good concrete like the Romans used 2000 years ago.  Read that article about lime and volcanic ash in Roman concrete. It's brilliant chemical engineering from 2000 years ago.
Ship searching for wider Panama Canal
This kind of lowball estimating always peaks my interest because it is so predictable. How anybody can actually write a contract with a European consortium for major work, without requiring it to post a substantial performance bond, is beyond me. 

Maersk Lines stopped using the Panama canal effective April last year. Transit fees for a ship with 4,500 containers had tripled in the previous 5 years to $450,000 per transit. They figure it's more cost effective to use larger ships and send them through the Suez Canal to get goods from China to the east coast of the U.S..

Isn't it also amazing that they are talking about a one-way trade in goods? There's no talk anywhere of containers filling up with goods made in America and passing through any canals enroute to China or Russia or Europe or Japan.

I hope that my buddy Chuck (R) will keep this sort of thing in mind as he arranges for the most economical cut-throat return shipment of all our combat gear from Afghanistan. That is presuming he can wheedle it passed our very good friends in Pakistan. Somebody in the Cinque Follies should also keep this old story in mind.
Ending a naval wrangle that highlighted the logistical weakness of the Canadian military, Canadian troops swung down from a helicopter today to board an American merchant ship that for almost three weeks had held three Canadian soldiers and 10 percent of Canada's armored might hostage on the high seas over nonpayment of a shipping bill.
Without any sea-lift capacity of its own, Canada moves its personnel and materiel either by private freighter or by arranging rides to wars and peacekeeping assignments aboard the ships of other NATO countries. This afternoon, with the money owed by a Montreal shipping company still unpaid, Canada's defense minister, Art Eggleton, ordered soldiers from a Canadian naval vessel, the Athabaskan, to board the merchant ship, the Katie, which had been anchored in international waters off the southeast coast of Newfoundland.
History has a funny way of repeating itself. I can see very clearly right now, in my mind's eye, a USN SEAL team fast-roping their way onto some private ship carrying parts of the 1st Infantry Division home from Pakistan. A private ship belonging to a company one of Chuck's (R) buddies just stiffed after services were rendered. You know, maybe a Disadvantaged Veteran Owned businessman's company.

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