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Panama Canal

Waterway in Central America connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The Panama Canal (Spanish: Canal de Panamá) is an artificial 82 km (51 mi) waterway in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean, cutting across the Isthmus of Panama, and is a conduit for maritime trade. Canal locks at each end lift ships up to Gatun Lake, an artificial freshwater lake 26 meters (85 ft) above sea level, created by damming up the Chagres River and Lake Alajuela to reduce the amount of excavation work required for the canal, and then lower the ships at the other end. An average of 200,000,000 L (52,000,000 US gal) of fresh water are used in a single passing of a ship.

Quick facts: Panama Canal Canal de Panamá, Specifications,...
Panama Canal
Canal de Panamá
A schematic of the Panama Canal, illustrating the sequence of locks and passages
Length82 km (51 miles)
Maximum boat length366 m (1,200 ft 9 in)
Maximum boat beam49 m (160 ft 9 in)
(originally 28.5 m or 93 ft 6 in)
Maximum boat draft15.2 m (50 ft)
Maximum boat air draft57.91 m (190.0 ft)
Locks3 locks up, 3 down per transit; all three lanes
(3 lanes of locks)
StatusOpen, expansion opened June 26, 2016
Navigation authorityPanama Canal Authority
Principal engineerFerdinand de Lesseps, John Findley Wallace (1904–1905), John Frank Stevens (1905–1907), George Washington Goethals (1907–1914)
Construction beganMay 4, 1904; 119 years ago (1904-05-04)
Date completedAugust 15, 1914; 109 years ago (1914-08-15)
Date extendedJune 26, 2016; 7 years ago (2016-06-26)
Start pointAtlantic Ocean
End pointPacific Ocean
Connects toPacific Ocean from Atlantic Ocean and vice versa
Location of Panama between the Pacific Ocean (bottom) and the Caribbean Sea (top), with the canal at top center

The Panama Canal shortcut greatly reduces 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. It is one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken.

Colombia, France, and later the United States controlled the territory surrounding the canal during construction. France began work on the canal in 1881, but stopped because of lack of investors' confidence due to engineering problems and a high worker mortality rate. The United States took over the project in 1904 and opened the canal in 1914. The US continued to control the canal and surrounding Panama Canal Zone until the Torrijos–Carter Treaties provided for its handover to Panama in 1977. After a period of joint American–Panamanian control, the canal was taken over by the Panamanian government in 1999. It is now managed and operated by the Panamanian government-owned Panama Canal Authority.

The original locks are 33.5 meters (110 ft) wide. A third, wider lane of locks was constructed between September 2007 and May 2016. The expanded waterway began commercial operation on June 26, 2016. The new locks allow transit of larger, NeoPanamax ships.[1]

Annual traffic has risen from about 1,000 ships in 1914, when the canal opened, to 14,702 vessels in 2008, for a total of 333.7 million Panama Canal/Universal Measurement System (PC/UMS) tons. By 2012, more than 815,000 vessels had passed through the canal.[2] In 2017, it took ships an average of 11.38 hours to pass between the canal's two outer locks.[3] The American Society of Civil Engineers has ranked the Panama Canal one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.[4] The canal is threatened by low water levels during drought and due to climate change.

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