“Brief History of the Panama Canal.”
“The Panama canal is one of the biggest infrastructures built by man, and an important element driving the maritime trade. Built between 1904 and 1914 by the United States, it has been managed by the Panamanian government since the year 2000”.
Already in 1516, when Nunez de Balboa crossed the Isthmus of Panama and discoverered the small gap between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, he started thinking about creating a waterway to cross the path. Studies by then determined the techinical impossibility of his idea, and a land route was being build to trasport the mineral resources of Peru to the east, to sail to Europe.
Then in the nineteenth century the French (emboldened after the contstruction of the Suez Canal between the Mediterranean and Red Sea) tried to repeat its success. However, the difficult natural conditions in Central America prevented them from achieving it.
After driving other routes, Nicaragua decided to launch the operation in Panama, which was at the time a province of Colombia. The United States supported the declaration of independence in 1903. In return, through the treaty must- Bunau-Virilla, Panama gave the United States sovereignty over the future path of the Canal and a band around it 10 miles wide (5 miles per side).
Thus began the contruction of infrastructure which took place between major difficulties. Because of the magnitude of the work, a total of 45, 000 people worked on the canal amidst the dangerous enviroment and disease from 1904 until its completion in 1914, with the first full-traffic run on January 7, 2008.
After more than 60 years of operations under U.S. sovereignty, Panama signed the Torrijos-Carter treaties in 1977. The canal was previously operated by the Panama Canal Commission, an agency of the U.S. government, but on December 31, 1999, the sovereignty was transferred to the Panama Canal Authority.
The Canal is a vital route for international trade. According to the Annual Reports of the Canal, more than 910,000 ships have passed though it between 1914 and 2002. In 2003, there were 13,154 transits and $188,386.6 milion dollars that moved.
Expanding the Panama Canal
Expanding the capacity of the Panama Canal is one of the greatest engineering plans of the XXI century, as a 40% increase in the capacity of transit goods from the current sea lanes will be opened between the Atlantic and the Pacific.
The construction of new locks releases one of the major constraints to increasing the carrying capacity of vessels and is opening new avenues for transoceanic shipping.
The expansion project involves the construction of two of locks – one in the Atlantic and the Pacific – one of three levels, including tubs of water reuse. The project also involves the excavation of access channels to the new locks and the widening of existing navigation channels, as well as the deepening of navigation channels and raising the maximum level of functioning of Lake Gatun.
The Panama Canal, one of the planet’s best known works, will undertake the most important work since its inception in 1914, allowing the passage of ships much larger than what we now allow in its facilities.
The Panama Canal revolutionized shipping since its inception: first joined the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, allowing a significant savings in time to avoid ships skirting South America and face the turbulent waters of Cape Horn.
However, almost one hundred years after its construction, the Panama Canal no longer responds to the current large vessels, which should limit their size, particularly thier width, to be able to pass through the canal.
Because of this limitation, larger boats, which must be compatible with the sea lanes, are limiting their potential. This is the case of large oil tankers, which have limited their capacity to traverse the Panama Canal, have resigned while others cross oceans. Therefore the Panama Canal has become an obstacle to the growth of commercial shipping.
The increased capacity of the Panama Canal will build a new set of locks of impressive dimensions: 427 meters long, 55 wide, 18.3 deep. This extension will allow the passage of ships of 336 meters long and 49 meters wide and a depth of 15 meters.
At present, the major Canal locks are 304.8 meters long, 33.53 meters in width and a depth of 12.55 meters. The expansion represents an increase of passable surface of approximately 40%.
The new locks will be built in 2015 and will cost 5,200 million dollars. This investment will avoid, however, that the channel is saturated and will develop the capacity of the vessels without the limitations of this sea.
Impressive numbers for an impressive Infractructure.