Panama officially opened an addition to its fabled sea canal Sunday for a new generation of super cargo ships, capping a nine-year, $5.4 billion expansion project that will double shipping capacity and impact global trade routes.
Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela unveiled the refurbished canal as the giant container ship Cosco Shipping Panama made its way through a string of locks on the 77-kilometer Isthmus of Panama. “This the route that unites the world,” Varela told a crowd of about 30,000 people who gathered to witness the inaugural trip through the vital waterway.
The latest generation of gigantic carriers — more than 46 meters wide and 275 meters long — could not fit through the 102-year-old canal. Unable to reach the U.S. East Coast by sea, many of the mega-carriers from Asia unloaded their goods in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach for shipment by rail to the rest of the country and beyond.
Many of the so-called “Neo-Panamax” ships able to navigate the canal will be stacked with containers nearly 15 stories high. Others will carry cargoes of grain, natural gas and other goods nearly three times larger than before.
◆ Original Canal
France began work on the original canal in 1881 before engineering problems and an increasing number of worker deaths from accidents and disease brought construction to a standstill.The United States took over the project in 1904, completing one of the most difficult engineering feats ever undertaken 10 years later.
The shortcut vastly reduced times and costs for sea travel between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, with ships no longer required to round the southern-most tip of South America – the Strait of Magellan – to accomplish that goal.
Full article: Panama Opens Canal Expansion (The ChosunIlbo)