The Canal, the connection between two Oceans (continued)

canal boat







The tug boat, left, was the first boat to pass through the
Panama Canal.


With the turn of the century, Theodore Roosevelt became the President of the US. President Roosevelt played an instrumental role in helping Panama achieve independence from Colombia and, in return, the US was granted control of the Panama Canal Zone. Work on the monumental Panama Canal project resumed in May 1904. John F. Wallace was appointed as the chief engineer for the project. Fearing an attack of yellow fever, Wallace left shortly and was succeeded by another railroad engineer John Frank Stevens. Several factors eased the troubles that had been faced during the French initiative. The Panama Railway was rebuilt to help dispose soil from the excavations. Fruit and vegetable farms were started and proper housing was provided to the workers. Meanwhile, the causes of yellow fever and malaria had been discovered and the prevention of these diseases became a priority for canal workers.
Three years later, the first phase of the project was completed. Now came the phase for designing dams and lock, and hydraulic engineering was not Stevens’ forte. President Roosevelt assigned the task to Major George W. Goethals, a US Army engineer. The US invested ten years and almost $400 million in the project and, finally in 1914, the Panama Canal was ready to be opened. By this time, the First World War had grabbed people’s attention. While countries were being divided by war, the first liner, Ancon, passed through the Panama Canal on August 15, 1914, corroborating the success of man’s attempt at uniting the two oceans forever.

canal inaug

Almost a century has gone by since the first ship sailed through the Panama Canal. And yet this canal continues to be a symbol of man’s greatest triumph over nature – separating two continents to unite two oceans. The Panama Canal shows that technology, if harnessed appropriately, can improve our lives. The 48-mile-long Panama Canal can save a ship 8,000 miles of travel! Before the canal was operational, a ship headed from California to New York would have to circumnavigating the entire continent of South America! No wonder thousands of ships pass through this canal every year. On an average, the Panama Canal helps around 14,000 ships save time and money each year. More than 5% of the world’s shipping (over 200 million tons of cargo) passes through the canal.
In fiscal 1999, 14,336 ships passed through the Panama Canal. The number of ships traveling between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean declined to 12,197 in 2002, before recovering a little to 13,154 in 2003. Despite this seeming decline, what is worth noting is that during these five years, the Panama Canal saw a gradual rise in the size of the average vessel passing through it. The total tonnage carried during this period had actually risen. In 2005, 2006 and 2007, the total number of ships that transited the waterway was 12,647, 12,771 and 13,234, respectively.
The canal controlled by the ACP (The Panama Canal Authority) since 1999, is now facing new challenges and opportunities. Driven by the continued and sustained increase in international trade and the consequent increase in the demand for transits has been putting increasing pressure on the Panama Canal. The ACP proposed a third set of locks projects, involving the construction of two locks, i.e. one on each side of the canal with three chambers each. This promises to be a huge undertaking, calling for the excavation of new access channels to the new locks, the widening and deepening of the existing navigational channels and the elevation of Gatun Lake’s maximum operating level. The project is, however, not expected to result in any permanent adverse impact on the people and the environment of Panama.
The ACP points out that the expansion, involving newer and larger locks, will enable the Panama Canal to handle more tonnage, while using less water at lower costs. It will also allow the transit of larger vehicles, such as the post Panamax liquid bulk vessels, dry bulk vessels, passenger vessels and vessels for transporting liquefied natural gas. Since the canal constitutes major economic activity in the Republic of Panama, its expansion will drive further growth in the national economy, besides promoting maritime activity in the region. The expansion will strengthen Panama’s role as the connectivity center for transportation, transshipping and logistics in the hemisphere, while generating significant direct and indirect employment opportunities. Q


Known as “The World’s International Cross Roads” due to the Canal,
Panama has the largest Free Trade Zone of the Western Hemisphere.


Democratic government with a strong economy.


The Isthmus of Panama is known for its excellent geographical position.


Port of Baltimore makes deal with Panama Canal. The Maryland Port Administration reached an agreement with the agency that runs the Panama Canal Authority to work with one another to promote use of a water route between the Baltimore Port and the Pacific Ocean. The understanding calls for the Baltimore port administration and the Panama Canal to launch joint efforts on information sharing and collective marketing.dig


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