The Panama Canal- A man-made mega structure

Lock gates, where water flows in/out thereby lifting/ lowering the ship

Little over a century ago, after a long but continuous effort to cut down the 35 days voyage to a practical 10 hours transit, a fully functional Panama Canal came into existence in 1914. Idea to link North pacific & Atlantic through Panama goes way back 16th century with the arrival of Spaniards to Isthmus. An idea of which the fruit could be borne only generations’ later, due to Financial and natural disasters.  Today the Panama Canal waterway is managed by Panama Canal Authority (ACP), an autonomous government entity.

The inter oceanic way operates through a system of lock complexes , each one with two lanes, which serve as water lifts that raise vessels to the level of Gatun lake, 27 meters above the sea , to allow the crossing by central mountain range, and then lower them to sea level on the other side of the isthmus.

“The Culebra cut (see Pic below) is the narrowest part of the canal and its 12.7 kilometers long. The segment was excavated through rock and limestone from the central Mountain ranges of the Isthmus of Panama. With the material excavated during its construction could be erected up to 63 pyramids, equivalent to the ones in Egypt”

The water that is used to raise and lower the ships in each set of locks through set of each set of locks comes from Gatun lake by gravity and is poured into the locks through a system of main culverts, which extend below chambers of the locks from the sidewalls and center walls

p Canal
  As seen on placard issued by the ACP during transit in Aug 18

Expanded Canal

The construction of an expanded canal began on September 3, 2007, and the works were inaugurated on June 26, 2016. The expanded canal doubles the capacity of inter oceanic way to meet the growing demand of world trade.

The expansion entailed the construction of two new lock complexes on the Atlantic and pacific side. Each complex features three chambers, nine water serving basins and rolling gates. To ensure social and environmental viability of the project, the expanded canal complied with environmental impact studies that included mitigation measures such as reforestation, wildlife, archaeology and geological rescue.

More than 160 species of native mammals depend on Panama Canal watershed as their source of water and habitat. To guarantee healthy water sources, Authorities are also focused on ensuring quality of wildlife and water reserve is never hampered.


  • 1914- Aug 15: The Panama Canal is inaugurated with the transit of SS Ancon from Atlantic to pacific
  • 1962- Oct 12: Inauguration of the bridge of the Americas, the first for public use over the Canal
  • 1963- May 12: The Panama canals start 24 hours operation
  • 1968- Feb 29: Canal Records highest number of transit within a day. 65 vessels
  • 1979- June 22: The ship Hydrofoil Pegasus of the United States navy made fastest transit    through the canal. 2 hours and 41 minutes.
  • 1994- Feb 16: Panama canal is named one of the seven wonders of Modern world by ASCE( American Society of Civil Engineers)
  • 1999- Dec 31: Panama takes on the administration and operation of the canal.
  • 2007-Sep 3: Construction of Expanded Canal begins.
  • 2010- Sep 4: Number of transits Hits one million with the transit of bulk carrier Fortune Plum.
  • 2014- Aug 15: The Panama Canal turns 100.
  • 2016-June 26:  The Panama Canal expansion is inaugurated.     Distances

Distance via Panama Canal: About 75 Nautical Miles

Distance Via Cape Horn (See Pic): About 10600 Nautical Miles