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USS Pearl Harbor Steams Through Panama Canal

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS070408-04
Release Date: 4/8/2007 2:22:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Flavia Marin, USS Pearl Harbor Public Affairs

USS PEARL HARBOR, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) passed through the Panama Canal on April 6, in support of Partnership of the Americas (POA) 2007.

Before entering the canal, Pearl Harbor enjoyed a brief port visit in Vasco Nunez De Balboa, Panama, and welcomed aboard the commander of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 40, Capt. Randy Snyder, and his multinational staff from Mayport, Fla.

During the transit, the ship’s company observed the artful process of leaving the Pacific Ocean and crossing into the Atlantic.

Sailors spread out from the forecastle to the flight deck, weather decks to topside: Most taking in the well-orchestrated event for the first time.

“This was a marvel of engineering,” said Electronics Technician 3rd Class Jamie Smart. “I didn’t realize just how intricate the whole process was. I can now say I crossed from the Pacific Ocean into the Atlantic, and that’s something I’ll never forget.”

“Passing through the Canal was an experience many Sailors never take part in,” ship’s captain Cmdr. Victor Cooper said. “For a lot of my Sailors, it was one of their most memorable moments of their Navy career, and mine too.”

According to the Panama Canal Authority Web site, the canal is a vital strategic waterway that carries 5 percent of the world's trade.

Connecting the Pacific and Atlantic oceans across the slender Isthmus of Panama, the canal saves shippers costly time steaming around Cape Horn at the tip of South America. It consists of artificially created lakes; channels; and a series of locks, or water-filled chambers, that raise and lower ships through the mountainous terrain of central Panama.

“The locks raised our ship approximately 85 feet above the water level we were sailing on in the Pacific Ocean,” Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Caldwell, Pearl Harbor’s executive officer said. “The entire process took less than 12 hours.”

“All hands did an excellent job executing the passage, including the Panamanian operators,” Cooper said. “My crew has made me proud, as always.”

“This is the second year of POA, and it’s going to get bigger and bigger,” Lt. Cmdr. Grant Hartfield, DESRON 40 planner said. “Every year, different countries will host the Partnership, making it more recognizable.”

Pearl Harbor is the first West Coast-based ship to pass through the canal while conducting POA.

“It’s not often a West Coast ship gets to visit Central and South America and take part in this,” Snyder said. “Pearl Harbor truly is conducting some unique operations for a San Diego-based LSD. The circumnavigation of South America for all of the task group’s ships will be quite an experience.”

“I have been looking forward to transiting the canal for years,” Caldwell said, “and today I finally got a chance to.”

POA 2007 focuses on enhancing relationships with regional partner nations through a variety of exercises and events at sea and on shore throughout South America and the Caribbean. The U.S. Navy Task Group consists of amphibious dock landing ship Pearl Harbor (LSD 52), destroyer USS Mitscher (DDG 57), frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58) and the Chilean Frigate Almirante Latorre (FFG 14).

The deployment will conclude with participation in PANAMAX 2007, an annual exercise designed to assist the government of Panama in protecting the security of the Panama Canal.

Pearl Harbor is the last of the Navy's four new cargo variants of the Harper’s Ferry-class landing dock ships. It is the first ship to carry the name Pearl Harbor, commemorating the heroic actions of members of the armed services and citizens of the Island of Oahu on Dec. 7, 1941.

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