With about 18 months to go before the planned opening of the new third set of locks, the Panama Canal is leaning on its old work horse, the Ellicott dredge “Mindi,” built in 1941!
The “Mindi” is currently working seven days a week near the famed Culebra Cut to widen a turning radius for the new bigger ships expected by 2017. The CEO of the Panama Canal, Jorge Quijano, invited Ellicott CEO Peter Bowe to his house for a special dinner, where he told Bowe, “Maybe we will retire her after the expansion is finished.” This dredging project is an important component in the $5 Billion expansion project.
Ironically at the same moment a newer, bigger, European cutter dredge sits idle nearby in the Panama Canal’s maintenance facility for repairs.
Also in the same vicinity you can see the enormous crane built by Germany for its World War II submarine effort (same time as the “Mindi”!), taken by the US Navy after the war. The Navy operated it for over 50 years before selling it to the Canal for $1 in 1998! This crane has a lifting capacity of 350 tons and is still supposed to be one of the world’s largest of its type.
Final historical note:
Ellicott was not low bidder to the US Government for the “Mindi.” We were high by about 1%, but were evaluated as low bidder due to faster delivery that we offered–then, as now, delivery is valuable!