Panama Announces Canal Expansion Plan

Panama has revealed plans for the biggest-ever expansion of its famous canal. The plan includes the possibility of spending up to U.S. $5.25 billion to enable the new generation of larger scale cargo vessels and oil tankers. Critics of the plan call it expensive and say that the expansion will eventually cost in excess of $10 billion U.S. How that money will be raised is a matter of much speculation, especially in light of the massive debt currently being carried by Panama.

When it opened in 1914, the shortcut between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans saved thousands of miles of ocean transit for the vast majority of vessels plying this particular trade route. The proposed expansion of the locks system will allow for much larger vessels, including the new generation of super container ships, to transit the canal.

The canal has been enormously successful, with more than 800,000 ships having passed through it since opening. Nicaragua and other Central American nations have considered building their own canals to provide competition, but no projects have been started to date.

Without an expansion, canal officials also say the waterway could reach its maximum capacity point in as little as three years. The expansion work, if approved, could start next year.