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Tugboats play critical role on Panama Canal

Ronald T. Church, Miami Herald photo

The Miami Herald profiled a tug boat captain, Ronald T. Church. Miami Herald photo.

Ronald T. Church, 65, was born in the zone and worked as a crane operator before entering the apprentice program to captain a tug in 1982. He retired in 1998, the year before the United States relinquished control of the canal, but then returned in 2008 to work under contract for the Panama Canal Authority, which now governs the canal.

His contract runs through 2014 but with the Panama Canal undergoing expansion and plenty of work available, he’s not sure when he will retire for good.

“This is history. We’re bringing in mates, mates, mates and training them’’ so they’ll be ready when the expansion is completed in 2015, says Church. “We have more tugs than are needed now and some of them will move over to the new locks.’’

More in the Miami Herald

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