Expanded Panama Canal reopens after 9 years of work
Now ships carrying nearly three times the cargo of previous maximum-capacity vessels will be able to traverse the canal as newly renovated and expanded Panama Canal was reopened by the Panamanian President, Juan Carlos Varela on Sunday after completing construction for its expansion. A giant Chinese container ship, Cosco became the first vessel to move from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean via the newly-enlarged Panama Canal.
Panama Canal expansion project :
Panama began the expansion nearly a decade ago in October 2006 after a national referendum approved the proposal by a 76.8 percent majority on 22 October 2006. The project formally began in 2007.
It was originally planned to open in late 2014, on the canal’s 100th anniversary but its completion was delayed by two years and it is estimated cost was $50 billion. The expansion of canal is aimed at responding to the global trend of using larger ships.
The Panama Canal expansion project, also called the Third Set of Locks Project, doubled the capacity of the Panama Canal by :
(a) adding a new lane of traffic allowing for a larger number of ships.
(b) increasing the width and depth of the lanes and locks allowing larger ships to pass.
The new lane of the canal runs for 77 km. The expansion mainly consists of building two new locks, each with three slots. The newly expanded locks are meant to double the canal’s capacity.
The canal operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 35 to 40 ships are expected to pass through every day. Each trip takes about eight to 10 hours. The expansion of canal will have a direct impact on economies of scale and international maritime trade.
About Panama Canal :
The Panama Canal is a man-made 48-mile (77 km) waterway in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. The canal cuts across the Isthmus of Panama and is a key conduit for international maritime trade.
France began work on the canal in 1881, but stopped due to engineering problems and a high worker mortality rate. The United States took over the project in 1904, and opened the canal on August 15, 1914.
It was one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken. The canal greatly reduced the time for ships to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, enabling them to avoid the lengthy, hazardous Cape Horn route around the southernmost tip of South America via the Drake Passage or Strait of Magellan.
After a period of joint American–Panamanian control, in 1999 the canal was taken over by the Panamanian government, and is now managed and operated by the government-owned Panama Canal Authority.