Dredgers Gather to Form WEDA Panama Chapter
Peter Marotta, captain of the dipper dredge Rialto M. Christiansen, is the first president of the WEDA Panama Chapter.
Bubba Savage, left, of Metso, with Carlos Reyes of the ACP; Ricardo Perez, master of the newly-christened Drillboat Baru, and Lawrence Mirones of the ACP.
Manuel Alvarado, manager of the Dredging Division of the Panama Canal Authority, describes recent dredging projects in the Canal.
WEDA members aboard the ACP's crane vessel, approaching the cutterhead dredge "Mindi". The cruise went from the dredging division yards at Gamboa to the Pedro Miguel Locks and back.
Held February 14 through 18 at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort, the event drew nearly 100 people from the Americas and Europe.
The meeting included technical presentations, talks by Panamanian officials, the first Panama Chapter meeting and election of officers.
The Panama Canal Authority hosted the group at the christening of their new drill barge Baru, and also on a boat tour of the Culebra Cut.
Peter Marotta, captain of the dipper dredge Rialto M. Christiansen, was elected first president of the chapter.
The meeting was dedicated to Charles W. "Chuck" Hummer, who was born and educated in the Canal Zone and later became chief of the Dredging Division at the Canal, and who has worked to establish a Panama Canal museum in Florida.
Stricken with ALS last year, Chuck was not able to attend the meeting, but sent his good wishes to all.
"Isn't the Panama Canal an extraordinary operation?" Hummer said in an interview after the meeting. "All the years that I lived and worked there I never stopped being impressed by the courage, technical expertise and labor force that could design, build and then operate such a complex facility."
Chuck's nephew, his Excellency Samuel Lewis Navarro, vice president of Panama, addressed the group at the Thursday breakfast.
The first morning, engineers and managers from the ACP (Panama Canal Authority) presented talks on the history and operation of the Canal, followed by a visit to the dredging division for the christening of the Baru.
Among the presentations were descriptions of the recent deepening of the Atlantic and Pacific entrances, plus construction of a berthing area for ships waiting to enter the Pedro Miguel locks.
A canal expansion program that will allow post-Panamax vessels to transit the Canal is being designed, and will proceed subject to approval by the citizens of Panama.
Included in the project will be a new lock design that will store and re-use water used for operating the locks.
That afternoon, attendees boarded a crane boat for a tour of the Culebra Cut, where they saw the cutterhead dredge Mindi, the dipper dredge Christiansen and the drill barge Thor at work.
Cruising all the way to the Pedro Miguel locks, the visitors were able to see the famous locomotives guiding a ship through the lock, before the boat returned to Gamboa, passing the sites of the famous landslides and seeing the structures and terracing that have been built to stabilize the banks.
The rest of the event included technical presentations by WEDA members, hosted meals and time for visitors to tour the area by foot, boat, bus and aerial tram.
Newly elected president Peter Marotta spoke to IDR after the last session.
Originally from New Jersey, Marotta has been connected with the Canal since 1972, and worked on all the floating equipment, working his way up until he was named captain of the Christiansen several years ago.
His wife Ilya Marotta is a native Panamanian who received her engineering degree from Texas A&M, and is working on the Canal expansion project.
Marotta believes that the Panamanian people will approve the expansion project, as they realize that the Canal is one of their greatest assets.
Regarding his plans as president of the organization, Marotta said that "as a leader, your job is to serve the people." As manager of 78 people in his job, he treats them all with decency and integrity, he said.
One of his first acts as president will be to increase the membership of the chapter and to encourage educational programs to attract young people to work on dredges.
It will be beneficial to the country and to the Canal if a second generation of people are encouraged to be in the industry, he said.
His approach will be to foster the development of the chapter while maintaining contacts with the other chapters in order to make the Panama Chapter grow.
Marotta received the Best Paper award for his presentation on the History of Dredging at the Panama Canal.