Panama: the new expanded Canal has been inaugurated

The first ship to cross the new Panama Canal is the COSCO Shipping Panama, a Chinese containership about 300 meters long. The inaugural transit took place on June 26 starting with the passage of the ship through the Agua Clara locks on the Atlantic side of the country and ending with the transit of the Cocoli locks on the Pacific side.

The Expanded Canal, delivered to the government of Panama by an international consortium led by Salini Impregilo, is the result of an expansion of 5.25 billion dollars, and will allow the transit of larger ships than the current ones, called Panamax. As of now, the transit will be possible to the so-called Neopanamax vessels, with a maximum dimension of 360 meters in length and 49 in width and with a multiplied capacity, from 5,000 to 12,500 containers.

The expansion program included the construction of a new set of locks on the Atlantic and Pacific sides of the waterway and the excavation of more than 150 million cubic meters of material, creating a second traffic lane and doubling the cargo capacity of the canal. The new gates system works as a sort of giant elevator that rises the ships for 27 meters on the ocean surface, to the level of the artificial Gatun Lake and the waterway that crosses the isthmus, and then lower them on the opposite bank. Despite the increased size of the new locks, they use less water than before due to the construction of water-savings basins that recycle 60 percent of the water used for transit.

This infrastructure, which complements the “old” channel built by the United States, aims to boost international trade, reshaping global shipping routes and increasing shipping traffic to the U.S. East Coast.