25-May-2006 -- This early morning we have left the Port of Manzanillo (Colima State, Mexico) with a cargo of 27,650 tons of clinker for Colón (Panama). Clinker is a greyish stuff and used for the production of Portland cement. The product is specified as Type I ASTM C-150 and quite a nasty and dusty cargo. So after loading the first thing to do at sea is to wash thoroughly away all this clinker dust. All deck crew will be full power busy with fire houses for the next two days. 2nd Officer Pablo Victorio from the Philippines, however, is not involved in this job. He is busy with drawing the courses down to Panama.
The "UBC Singapore" is carrying a lot of cement and related products. The word "Cement" comes from Latin "caementum", which means "broken stone, brickstone". Already the Romans did know and use it in ancient times, but it was not until 1835 when cement was re-discovered by a pharmacist from Ulm (Southern Germany), Dr. Ernst Gustav Leube. Cement is a hydraulic, artificially manufactured material from which chiefly concrete is made. The raw materials are clay, sand, iron ore and limestone. Portland cement (so named after a peninsula in England) is manufactured by crushing and mixing clinker and gypsum, and consists of about 62% calcium oxyde (CaO), 23% silicium dioxyde (SiO2), 8% aluminium oxyde (Al2O3) und 4% iron oxide (Fe2O3). During the burning process in the rotating tube oven from these main ingredients minerals do form, which are of importance for the particular characteristics of cement. The most important of these chemical substances are Tricalcium silicate (3 CaO × SiO2), Dicalcium silicate (2 CaO × SiO2), Tricalcium aluminate (3 CaO × Al2O3) and Tetracalcium aluminate ferrite (4 CaO × Al2O3 × Fe2O3). World's largest cement manufacturing countries are: the PR of China, India, USA, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Spain, Brazil, Italy, Russia, and finally Mexico. World’s annual production is about 2 billion tons of cement.
This is what a clinker and cement carrying captain should know, but Mexico's history is certainly more thrilling:
Long before the Spanish conquest there were highly advanced cultures in the area known as Mexico. They included those of the Mayas and Aztecs. In 1519 Hernando Cortés landed near the present Veracruz on the Caribbean coast and in two years had overthrown the Aztecs and established 300 years of Spanish rule. In 1810 a revolution led by Miguel Hidalgo proclaimed independence from Spain, and after years of strife the republic was established in 1824. Texas, so far a part of Mexico, declared itself independent in 1836 and was annexed by the USA in 1845. This led to the war of 1845-48, the famous "Mexico-American War", which was settled by the Treaty of Guadeloupe-Hidalgo. As a result of the Treaty Mexico was forced to cede the northern provinces of Texas, California and New Mexico, to the United States of America.
Mexico then was financially completely broke. President Benito Juárez therefore intended to suspend the payments of the international loans the country had taken for a period of two years. One of Mexico's most important creditors, however, was France, and this decision led Emperor Napoléon III to invade the country in 1862 (this conflict is known as the "French Intervention War". At the beginning England and Spain participated, too, but withdrew soon.
In 1864, an Empire under the Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian I of Austria as Napoléon's viceroy was declared. This was short lived, as Benito Juárez chased away the French in 1866, with the assistance of the US. After this victory he personally was present at the execution of Maximilian at Querétaro in 1867. Finally the republic was restored in the same year. Benito Juárez, Mexico's most famous and honoured president, died in 1872 after a heart attack.
Today Mexico is a federal republic consisting of 31 states and a federal district (Mexico City). Mexico has natural resources of uranium, oil, silver, copper, gold, lead, zinc, natural gas, and timber. Both light and heavy industry is continuing to expand, especially the production of motor vehicles.
The flora and fauna of Mexico is unrivalled. The most striking characteristics of the flowers is their deep rich colour. Among the animals are the puma, wolf, and deer. The waters off the coast as well as the rivers are teen with many varieties of fish; alligators and turtles are common in the estuaries. And birds, of which there are over 400 species, are famed for their brilliant plumage. Even myself, not being too fond of souvenirs, purchased a toucan (of course only made from "papel maché") which is now decorating my cabin on board and will be brought to my home when I leave the ship.
About eight hours after unberthing at Manzanillo we were at 18N 103W. This Confluence is about 16 km off the coast, which to me seems uninhabited. At least there are no towns or villages marked on the nautical chart. The only thing I do know about the area is that it belongs to the State of Michoacán. However, there are high mountains and despite the haze we can make them out quite clearly, when looking towards NW, NNW, North and NE.