Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Path Between Two Seas

Panama Plans Huge Canal Expansion
BBC News
April 25, 2006

This past Monday, Panama announced its $5.3 billion dollar plan to double the capacity of the Panama Canal. The widening project would allow the Canal to meet growing transit demands by increasing the waterway’s operating capacity and allowing ships of more than twice the present maximum size to use the waterway.

President Martin Torrijos described the project as a “formidable challenge” but necessary if the canal is to retain its place as a key route for global cargo. Due to the increase of exports from China and a new generation of ships that carry twice as much cargo as normal vessels, Panama’s canal has reached capacity.

The project will create several thousand jobs which may win much needed voter support for the initiative. The sentiment that ordinary people have not benefited from the Canal is widespread throughout the country.

The Canal opened in 1914 and was U.S. operated until it was handed over to the Panamanian government through the Torrijos-Carter Treaty of 1999. An estimated 5,609 lives were lost from disease and accidents during the American construction era (1904-1914), though that estimate increases by the thousands if deaths from the French construction era are added.

The Panama Canal is approximately 50 miles long between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The Canal uses a system of locks-compartments with entrance and exit gates. An estimated 13,000 vessels use the Canal every year. Commercial transportation activities through the Canal represent approximately 5% of the world trade. The Canal has a workforce of approximately 9,000 employees and operates 24 hours a day.

"The creation of a water passage across Panama was one of the supreme human achievements of all time, the culmination of a heroic dream of over four hundred years and of more than twenty years of phenomenal effort and sacrifice. The fifty miles between the oceans were among the hardest ever won by human effort and ingenuity, and no statistics on tonnage or tolls can begin to convey the grandeur of what was accomplished. Primarily the canal is an expression of that old and noble desire to bridge the divide, to bring people together. It is a work of civilization.”
– Author David McCullough, A Path Between the Seas

For more information on the Canal, please visit the Panama Canal Authority website.

No comments: