Home Education Panama Canal- Most Used Shortcut of the World's Traders

Panama Canal- Most Used Shortcut of the World’s Traders

Panama Canal is one of the most strategic artificial waterways in the world which connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. It is owned by the Republic of Panama, completed in August, 1914 and expanded in June 2016.

In 1994, it ranked in the seven wonders of the modern world by the American Society of the modern world. 

So, let’s find out more information about this amazing structure in this blog.

In this blog, You will find out –

  1. General introduction of The Panama Canal
  2. Basic concept of structure
  3. Mechanism of the Panama Canal
  4. Structural specification
  5. Services of Panama canal
  6. Issues facing while construction of canal
  7. Awards & Records
  8. Visiting Panama canal
  9. Conclusion
  10. FAQ

General Introduction of the Panama Canal

It is an artificial waterway in Panama which length is about 82 km. It connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. The main purpose behind this canal to reduce the thousands of nautical miles traveled by ships between the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean.

This canal was controlled by the United States from 1914 to 1974. In 1979, a joint agency Panama Canal Commission made by the United States and Republic of Panama and control of the canal passed to it. After that on December 31, 1999 complete control passed to the Republic of Panama.

Basic Concept of Canal

The idea of water passage at Panama to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean was first present by King Charles I in the 1500s when he surveys a route along the Chagres River. But, at that time it seems to be impossible to create a route across the mountainous and jungle terrain.

In 1880, France was the first country that takes the first step towards it. A construction team under the Count Ferdinand de Lesseps brooked the ground of canal. But the Lesseps was not aware of the river condition in the rainy season. So, due to incessant rains and the spread of malaria canal was become too difficult for Lesseps.   

In 1902, U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt purchased the French assets canal zone in $40 million. Further, in November 1903 the republic of Panama recognized by the United States and on May 6, 1904 John Findley Wallace appointed as chief engineer by U.S. president and construction of canal proceed.

John Findley Wallace chief engineer of panama canal
John Findley Wallace (1852-1921)

Mechanism of the Panama Canal

sequence of locks and passages

Like most of the canals this one also uses locks for the transportation of ships from one ocean to another ocean.

For example, from the Atlantic side a ship will be pulled in to the first lock by the tug trains on each side of the canal. The downstream gate will close and water from upstream will be fed in, to fill the lock. So, the boat will float up.

After that once the water level rises to match the next lock, the gate will open and the ship will be pulled into the next lock. Then the downstream gates will close again, the water level will rise again and the gates will open.

This will all happen one more time until the third lock raises the ship to the water level of Gatun Lake that 26 meters above sea level. The same procedure is done for the transfer of the ship from Gatun Lake to the Pacific Ocean.

the-panama-canal machenism

These three locks exclusively set the limit that what size a large portion of the world’s container ship fleet can be. A ship has to be under 1200 feet or 366 meters long and 168 feet or 51 meters wide to be accepted in the this canal. So, a huge portion of the world’s ships are built to be exactly this size

Structural Specification

The canal is consists of artificial lakes, artificial channels and three sets of locks. Alajuela Lake also is known as Madden Lake works as a reservoir for the canal.

Gatun Lake

The Gatun Lake is an artificial lake created in 1913 by the damaging Charges River. Whenever any ship passes through the Panama Canal locks they required a large amount of water to raise the level of a ship that is supplied by the Gatun Lake. So, it is working as a reservoir of the canal.

It is the largest man-made canal in the world and due to the rain forest around the lake provides the best defense to the Panama Canal. Besides that, it also provides drinking water to the Panama and Colon city.

Lock Gate

lock gates of panama canal

The size of the Lock Gate decided the maximum size ship that can pass through the Panama Canal. So, most of the ship built as per the maximum size allowed in this canal for the international trade that is known as Panamax Vessels.

The initial size of locks designed to be 28.5 m wide. But, on the request of the United States Navy in 1908 the lock size increases to 33.53 m so, the US naval ships can easily pass. Each lock length is about 320 m, the thickness is about 2 m and 19.5 m wide.

The third set of lock has created in 2006 which allows bigger ships to transit. The new lock increase by 25 percentages in length, 51 percentages in the beam and 26 percentages in the draft. Although, the commercial opening of the third lock starts in 2016 for ships.

Tolls

Tolls for passing through the canal are decided by the Panama Canal Authority based upon the ship size and type of cargo.

Services of Panama Canal

Commercial Services

It permits ships of commercial goods between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean which saves time and money.

Before the construction of Panama Canal ships which travel between New York and San Francisco have to be travel around South America. It takes about 67 days but after the Panama Canal ships take only 6-8 hours to cross River.

Military Services

On the request of the United States Navy, in 1908 the lock size of canal increases to 33.53 m so, the US naval ships can easily pass. Until 1999 the U.S. military had a strong presence in the Panama Canal Zone while all other military bases were closed.

The canal is still using for the transportation of the U.S. military vessels.

International Exposition

Due to the construction of the this canal, the goods services not only increases between New York and San Francisco but, also increases between the whole United State to Asia and Europe. It brings the US west coast closer to Europe and It brings the US east coast closer to Asia.

The data for annual traffic on the canal shows the exposition of the canal.

YearNo. of ships per year
19141,000
200814,702
20128,15,000

Issue Facing while Construction of Canal

Deaths of Workers

While the construction of the Panama Canal thousands of workers died due to its risky work with heavy rainfall and tropical diseases. In the earlier starting construction of the canal by French more than 20,000 workers died and between 1904 to 1914 about 5,600 workers died when construction was done by America.

Water level

In the rainy season, Gatun Lake filled with an excess amount of rainwater which lost to the ocean. Similarly, in the dry season there is a shortfall of water in Gatun Lake.

When the ship comes to the canal, to raise the ship, locks were filled with the water and then the water goes to the lack. Now to pass the ship the other side also needs water. Due to this double amount of water required to pass a single ship.

New_Panama_Canal with three water saving basin
Panama Canal after Water-Saving Basin

To solve this issue, a Water-saving basin constructed nearby the lock. In which water can easily be collected after the passing of the ship. Each lock has three water-saving basins. Through this basin, 60 percent of water used by the basin, instead of the lake.

Awards and Records

  • Panama Canal is the world’s largest artificial canal.
  • In 1994, The Panama canal ranked in the seven wonders of the modern world by the American Society of the modern world. 

Visiting Panama Canal

After getting so much information about this amazing structure, everyone wants to get a tour of this. So if you plan a trip to the Republic of Panama your trip will not complete without visiting this canal.

tourist at panama canal

Way to reach Panama Canal

To reach at Panama Canal from Panama City you have many options –

  • Personal vehicle or taxi – It takes around $10-$15 for one way but it is more comfortable.
  • City Metro – If you stay in the center of the city metro is the best option for you.
  • Public transport bus – To use public transport bus, you need to buy a rechargeable card of $3.

Timing and Ticket price

Panama Canal is open for visitors from 8 AM to 5 PM. But, the best time for visiting is between 9 AM-11 AM or After 3 PM.

The ticket price for each visitor is about $20.

Best spot for visiting at Panama Canal

The Panama Canal is 80 km long. So, it is impossible to visit the whole canal. Generally there are three main places for visiting – Miraflores Locks, Gatun Locks, and Pedro Miguel Locks.

From here you can easily understand the working procedure of locks and how ships elevated and lowered.

Conclusion

In nutshell, We can say that The Panama Canal the one of the marvels structure in the history of civil engineering. It makes easy the pathway of the world’s trading and connect the U.S. countries with European and Asian countries.

Also, it become the standard for most of the ships sizes due to the vital use and become most used shortcut for the world traders.

Also read – Hoover Dam- Introduction, Structure, Services & Visiting

                  Golden Gate Bridge- Most Photographed Bridge in the World

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Where is the Panama Canal located?

It is located in Panama, Central America.

2. What is the length of Panama Canal?

It’s length is about 80 kilo-meter.

3. Why Panama canal was built?

The main purpose behind this canal to reduce the thousand of nautical miles traveled by ships between the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean.

4. How the Panama Canal works?

Like most of the canals Panama Canal also uses locks for the transportation of ships from one ocean to another ocean.
For example, from the Atlantic side a ship will be pulled in to the first lock by the tug trains on each side of the canal. The downstream gate will close, water from upstream will be fed in to fill the lock, the boat will float up, then once the water level rises to match that of the next lock, the gate will open, and the ship will be pulled into the next lock.
Then the gates will close again, the water level will rise again, the gates will open.

Civil Engineer | Building Planner | Content Writer | Freelancer
Hello there,
I am Passionate of planning and designing of buildings. Skilled in AutoCAD, Revit, 3d Max and Etabs.
With that I also like to writing blogs and content.

Mahendra
Civil Engineer | Building Planner | Content Writer | Freelancer Hello there, I am Passionate of planning and designing of buildings. Skilled in AutoCAD, Revit, 3d Max and Etabs. With that I also like to writing blogs and content.
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