PM Stuart: Panama Canal tour a ‘humbling’ experience
PRIME MINISTER Freundel Stuart has described his tour of the Miraflores Locks of the Panama Canal as a “humbling experience”.
Stuart, who is on a three-day working visit to Panama following his attendance at the Seventh Summit of the Americas, toured the Canal on Monday along with Minister of Foreign Affairs, Senator Maxine McClean; Permanent Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office, Sonja Welch; Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Simone Rudder; Deputy Permanent Secretary, David Bulbulia; personal assistant, Yvette King, as well as representatives from the Barbados Government Information Service.
Stating that the tour “added flesh to the dry bones of our understanding of the relationship between Barbados, Barbadians and the construction of the Panama Canal”, the Prime Minister added that he was pleased to be associated with the effort and the history of Barbadians in making the Canal possible.
He continued: “To see the name of Barbados emblazoned on the walls of the museum here at the Canal, giving colour as it were to the untamed nature that Barbadians would have had to confront in trying to bring about this engineering marvel, really is a humbling experience. It also helps considerably that Panamanians generally understand and accept that Barbadians contributed much to the construction of this amazing edifice.”
Stuart also expressed his appreciation to the thousands of Barbadians, some of them teenagers, who perished in the construction of the Canal in the early 1900s.
“When I imagine what raw nature would have looked like before all of this was constructed, they really were courageous, and we therefore remember them with profound gratitude. …People had to give their lives and sacrifice their families to make all this possible, but, it is with us, and we are the proud beneficiaries of their sacrifice,” he affirmed.
Located on the Pacific side of Panama, Miraflores is one of a series of locks that make up the Panama Canal and connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the others being the Pedro Miguel and Gatun Locks. According to Canal Guide, Jaime Robleto, in 2014, over 200 passenger ships and seven million containers transited the Canal, on a journey of 50 miles, lasting up to 10 hours.
“Every year, 160 countries utilise the waterway for their exports and imports. Fourteen thousand ships come and go with five per cent of the world’s commerce,” he revealed.
He added that the Panama Canal expansion project, which involves the construction of a third set of locks at a cost of US$5 billion, began in 2007, and is scheduled to end in June 2016. That project will comprise one lock complex located on the Pacific side to the southwest of the existing Miraflores Locks. The other complex will be located to the east of the existing Gatun Locks, on the Atlantic end of the Canal.
Since the opening of the Panama Canal over 100 years ago, on August 15, 1914, over one million transits have been recorded. (BGIS)