Panama Canal at a glance

• The Panama Canal extends 50 miles across the isthmus from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. It cost $375 million to build the waterway, which opened in 1914.

• The nine-year project to add a third set of locks cost $5.25 billion. The expansion doubled the canal’s capacity.

• Lock chambers in the original canal are 1,000 feet long and 110 feet wide. Chambers in the new set of locks are 1,400 feet long and 180 feet wide to accommodate a new generation of 14,000-TEU ships.

• The new locks have 16 rolling gates that operate from concrete recesses perpendicular to the lock chambers. This is different from the original locks, which use miter gates. The new configuration turns each recess into a dry dock that allows maintenance of the gate at the site without the need to remove it and interrupt operations.

• Transiting ships are raised to a height of 85 feet above sea level in the canal. This is the level of Gatun Lake.

• Tugboats assist ships mainly when they are entering and leaving the original locks, and throughout the transit in the new locks.

Source: Panama Canal Authority

By Professional Mariner Staff