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The Panama Canal Doubles Its Capacity
Expansion of the Panama Canal will double its capacity by 2014 allowing more and bigger ships to pass through. Today the Canal services 14,000 cargo-bearing ships--280 billion tons-- annually. Despite operating around the clock, the Canal is hard-pressed to handle the 90 per cent of capacity that it was originally designed to handle. Now, 93 years after being completed the Canal has reached it limitations, and major shipping companies pay exorbitant amounts to make the 50-mile passage through the Isthmus of Panama. BP Shipping paid $400,000 on August 26, reflecting a record bid of $220,300 for tankers, to jump to first in line. The bid was not bizarre by any stretch of the imagination because it was the fourth record-breaker that month.
In late August, the situation worsened. Traffic slowed to a crawl when crews shutdown two locks at the Atlantic and Pacific gates for routine maintenance. Now the canal has become a worrisome paradox, at once an essential artery and a troubling bottleneck. For years major vessels, called Panamax ships, were built to fit the 110-foot locks like a foot fits into a shoe. However, shipping companies are building even bigger vessels, called post-Panamax ships, that cannot pass through the canal. By 2011 those ships will represent 37 per cent of the world's container vessels. For Panama Canal officials this has a grim sound because it may mean the Panama Canal is becoming obsolete.
Egypt's Suez Canal dwarfs the Panama Canal in terms of traffic and generated revenue. The lockless Suez Canal provides a shortcut between Europe and Asia and accommodates supertankers that dwarf ships passing through the Isthmus of Panama.
The Panama Canal can't afford to become a backwater. Thus, in October 2006, the citizens of Panama voted to modernize the Isthmus and approved a $5.25 billion expansion. The construction includes two new sets of locks with three chambers each, one built on the Pacific and one built on the Atlantic side. As of September, 2010, progress was being made with the removal of target tower 2 and improvement of target towers 1 and 1A. A new traffic lane will mean a doubling of the canal's capacity and the ability to handle post-Panamax vessels.
Panama City is one of the most important cities in the Americas. Why Panama City is so Imortant? Because it has startegic position and conects West with East through Panama Canal. Many boats and ships go from China and other countries through Panama Canal to deliver electronics and other goods.
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