Many of our readers will at some time have transitted the Panama Canal and probably like me, marvelled at the vision of those who first contemplated the huge engineering project of creating this link between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and those who brought the canal to reality.
Those of us involved in ships will understand the term ‘Panamax’ vessel as a vessel built to the maximum dimensions which still allow the vessel to use the canal.
As ships have grown ever bigger (eg container vessels) as owners seek economies of scale and as global traffic continues to grow, Panama announced a few years ago that it was to expand the canal to allow much bigger ships to transit this shortcut between the two oceans.
This project will create a new lane of traffic by constructing a new set of locks with much bigger dimensions. There will be two new lock complexes – one on the Atlantic side and one on the Pacific side, new access channels to the new locks will be excavated and existing navigational channels will be widened and deepened.
This expansion will not only allow bigger vessels to use the canal, but will also allow a much greater number of vessels to transit daily, reducing costly waiting times. This ambitious project costed at circa £3 billion has not been without controversy, but should bring substantial economic benefits to Panama and real benefits to international maritime trade. In recent years the canal’s capacity has become increasingly strained leading to delays, but this expansion should protect the canal’s future competitiveness and financial well being.
More on this and other news in Sea Breezes Magazine - October 2011 Issue
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