Panama Canal is a ship track that is very important in the Americas. Because the American continent is the continent with the form extending from north to south. To the east of this continent there is the Atlantic, and in the south Pacific ocean there. To make a voyage from the side of the continent, to the other side of the continent requires a considerable distance, if it had rounded the continent via the south, in the south of the country Chile. For example, if a ship which departed from San Francisco (west coast of America) to New York (east coast of America). Ships must sail around South America with a trajectory that is as far as 22,500 km. On this basis the Panama canal was built. It is to save the distance or navigation channel was cut path. And the result is a distance of 22,500 km, eventually could be cut to 9,500 km only.

Panama Canal, link of Pacific and Atlantic ocean
Ships crossing Panama Canal

Plan the construction of a canal in the middle of the American continent is already there since the 16th century, but just can be realized on August 15, 1914. Although construction is facing a fairly severe constraints, such as malaria, yellow fever, landslides, and water shortages, the canal was finally established and have helped hundreds of thousands of ships crossing from opening or an average of 12,000 ships per year. From these data could be concluded how important Panama Canal is for shipment.

History of the Panama canal development

The idea of building the Panama Canal, was first coined in 1524 by the king of Spain at that time, Charles V. King argues that if the isthmus at Panama split by a canal, it will ease the journey which royal ships sailing from Ecuador to Peru or vice versa. In the following years, a number of other kingdoms of Europe also expressed the same idea but still hit the technology and resource constraints.

Panama Canal map
Panama Canal map

Physical construction of the canal was eventually successful new beginning on January 1, 1880. At that time the French government which is inspired by success of their engineer, Ferdinand de Lesseps, who had founded the Suez Canal in the continent of Africa, decided to start this very dificult project. Construction of the canal was entrusted directly to the de Lesseps. Unfortunately, because it seemed to rush and do not make geological and hydrological studies are adequate, the project began to consume a lot of lives and money. Outbreaks of malaria and yellow fever broke out and a large number of workers affected and even death. Carrying around 22,000 people were affected, so that this construction project began abandoned. Tools made of iron and steel begin to rust and than some workers raised their hands and return to their respective countries.

Seeing these difficult conditions, the French government in 1893 decided to temporarily stop construction of the Panama canal project. Subsequently in 1898, France began to approach the United States (U.S.) to continue the project. In 1902, the U.S. Senate approved the takeover of this project. In 1904, the U.S. president that time, Theodore Roosevelt, decided to buy the remnants of project equipment from France and continued construction of the Panama canal. But new construction is begun by the United States after successfully liberate Panama from Colombia. As compensation, the Government of Panama to provide the right management of the canal to the government of the United States.

Finally the construction of the Panama canal resumes. However, this time through proper preparation and provision of adequate infrastructure. President Theodore Roosevelt appointed George Washington Goethals as head of the project. Old equipment little by little began to be replaced with new, more sophisticated equipment. In 1914, the Panama Canal project successfully completed. Two years earlier than the target set, which should be completed by June 1, 1916. Panama Canal finally opened officially on August 15, 1914, which coincided with the start of World War I in Europe. The first ship through the Panama canal is a cargo ship named Ancon.

In the 1930s, the Panama Canal enhanced by the creation of artificial lakes as a water reservoir that is opened if there are ships that will pass. It also made several sluice gates. After World War II, the people of Panama began to demand the right of management of the Panama Canal, and in addition to protest U.S. military presence that is increasingly growing a lot in that place. Finally, on 7 September 1977, U.S. President, Jimmy Carter and Panamanian President Omar Torrijos, signed a deal that allowed Panama to manage their own canal. But the Panamanian government must still ensure the neutrality of the region (Neutrality Treaty) and the U.S. were allowed to return at any time. However, the deal was criticized by most Americans. Subsequently, on December 31, 1999, the management handed over entirely to the Panama canal through Panama Canal Authority / Panama Canal Authority (ACP).

Before the handover, the government of Panama has held an international tender for the 25 years contract container port operation, which was won by the company Hutchison Whampoa, a Hong Kong based company owned by tycoon Li Ka Shing.

How Operation Panama Canal

Unlike the Suez Canal, the Panama Canal relies on a number of sluice gates and several artificial lakes. From the Bay of Limon on the Atlantic Ocean, the ship entered the sluice vessel Gatun Locks are raised as high as 26 meters from sea level. A number of small electric locomotive lead or push the ship through the doors of the water. Small boat cut the engine and driven, while the big ship is guided but still moving with its own power. The door of the steel giant water behind the vessel was closed and the water in front of the door was opened to drain water slowly from Lake Gatun. There are three sluice gates that must be passed, which eventually raise the ship until parallel to the surface of the lake.

Panama Canal operation
Panama Canal operation

The ship then get away from the locomotive power and sail across the lake made it as far as 22 miles or 35 kilometers. This artificial lake was originally Chagres River valley is dammed by building a giant dam Gatun. Arriving at the southeastern tip of Lake Gatun ship entered the trajectory Gaillard (gill-yard) long, 13 kilometers, 150 meters wide and a minimum depth of 13 meters. At the end of the trajectory Gaillard ship re-entered the water gates are also equipped locomotives drivers. The first sluice Pedro Miguel Locks lowered 9 meters to the surface vessel Miraflores lake. From here the ship and then sail through the Miraflores lake as far as 2 and a half miles to the gate or Miraflores Miraflores Locks. Here are two doors down the vessel until the water level on the Pacific Ocean. And from here the ship sailed into the Gulf of Panama and then out into the Pacific Ocean.

Bridge above Panama Canal
Bridge above Panama Canal

Measured from the Gulf of Limon on the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Panama on the Pacific Ocean this canal has a length of about 82 kilometers to the long voyage around 8 hours. On average there are 12,000 ships cross the canal every year, or about 33 ships a day. But because of narrow, this canal can not be skipped aircraft carriers and tanker giant. Therefore, ships that can pass the Panama canal called Panamaz ships.

Rates to pass through the Panama Canal

Canal authority to set tariffs to cross the Panama Canal by ship type, size, and what is contained in the cargo ship. In 2007, the Authority has set a new tariff and the Disney Cruise Line ship U.S. origin in 2008 as a payer record that is the most expensive tariff of USD $ 331,200.

Challenges to the Panama Canal

Panama Canal to face some fierce competition, from such inter-oceanic railway across the United States and Mexico, and Nicaragua’s neighbors plan to also build the canal. Looking at these challenges the Government of Panama in 2006 and then held a referendum to expand the canal. Fortunately, the referendum was approved by approximately 80% of the people of Panama. In concrete, the expansion of the Panama canal will be coupled with the construction of two water gates extra wide, namely at the beginning and end of the canal. Panama Canal will also be expanded and deepened in some places. This project will take at least eight years and cost more than USD $ 5 billion. Panama itself will provide around half the cost that could be taken from the pockets of the Panama Canal Authority noted that in 2007 earned revenues of around USD $ 1.76 billion and the rest is taken from international loans.


  1. Wirremiody

    No doubt if Panama Canal is important canal for Panama economy. It give Panama a big income.

  2. Gabriel

    I agree with you Panama canal is important economic generator for Panama

  3. Mershon49

    Wooooooooow it’s a wonderful canal!

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