Ninety-three years after its grand opening in 1914, the Panama Canal will mark its anniversary tomorrow by celebrating the successful start of its historic Expansion Program.
Nearly a year after Panamanians approved a national referendum to expand the waterway, the Panama Canal Authority
(ACP) has set the project in motion. It awarded the first expansion-related construction contract, the first of five dry excavation projects that will create the new Pacific Locks access channel. This new channel will link a new, third set of locks on the Pacific end of the Canal with the existing Gaillard Cut (the narrowest stretch in the Panama Canal).
Recently, the ACP assembled an experienced internal team to manage this historic undertaking, hired legal and financial advisors, and released other preliminary tenders. It has also presented the Canal's Expansion Program to international financial institutions, as it begins to weigh financing alternatives for the project.
Expansion will build a new lane of traffic along the Panama Canal through
the construction of a new set of locks, doubling capacity and allowing more traffic and longer, wider ships. This project, which just received the 2008 Samoter award for "Best Construction Project in the World," will be the largest undertaking at the Canal since its opening.
There were 14,194 total transits in fiscal year 2006. Since August 15, 1914, more than 922,000 vessels have transited the waterway.