Panama Current Affairs - 2019

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Expanded Panama Canal reopens

Newly renovated and expanded Panama Canal was reopened by the Panamanian President, Juan Carlos Varela.

After the launch a giant Chinese container ship Cosco become the first vessel to move via the newly-enlarged Panama Canal from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.

The expanded Panama Canal will allow a new, much-larger generation of container ships to pass through the isthmus of Panama.

About Panama Canal expansion project

  • The Panama Canal expansion project was approved in October 2006 after it was favoured by the national referendum by a 76.8% majority.
  • The project formally began in 2007 and was due to finish in 2014. But its completion was delayed by two years and it is estimated cost was $50 billion.
  • Panama Canal expansion project is also called as the Third Set of Locks Project. The new lane of the canal runs for 77km.
  • It doubles the existing capacity of the Panama Canal by adding a new lane of traffic allowing for a larger number of ships.
  • It also increases the depth and width of the lanes and locks allowing much-larger generation of container ships to pass.
  • It also has raised the maximum operating water level of Gatun Lake. Overall it will have a direct impact on economies of scale and international maritime trade.

About Panama Canal

  • The Panama Canal is an artificial 77 km waterway that connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean.
  • The canal cuts across the Isthmus of Panama and is a key conduit for international maritime trade.
  • Strategically and economically it is one of the most important waterways in the world providing the shortest sea link between East Asia, North America and Europe.
  • Its opening in 1914 had provided alternative route to lengthy sea voyage around the southernmost tip of South America via the Drake Passage or Strait of Magellan.
  • France had started work on the canal in 1881, but stopped it due to engineering problems and a high worker mortality rate.  Later US took over the project in 1904 and opened it in August 1914.
  • The canal was taken over or completely nationalised by the Panamanian government in 1999. Now it is managed and operated by the Panamanian government-owned Panama Canal Authority.

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