201: Panama Canal Expansion Project

One of the new sets of locks on the Panama Canal (Photo from twitter.com/thepanamacanal)
One of the new sets of locks on the Panama Canal (Photo from twitter.com/thepanamacanal)

On this date in 2006, 77.8 percent of voters in Panama voted to expand the Panama Canal to allow larger ships to transit the Isthmus of Panama.

Here’s a little bit about the history of the Panama Canal and the improvements that are scheduled to be finished in 2016.

The Panama Canal opened in 1914, cutting the sailing distance from San Francisco to New York from 13,000 miles to just over 5,000 miles. The canal and the surrounding Panama Canal Zone was controlled by the United States until 1999 when the Panamanian government assumed control.

Ship size is limited by the sets of locks on the Pacific and Atlantic ends of the canal, by the depth of the canal and the clearance beneath the Bridge of the Americas on the Pacific end. Ships are built to barely meet these requirements, requiring slow and precise movement of the vessels, which can create delays of as much as seven days. Ships that are the maximum size for the canal are known as Panamax. Ships that are too big for the canal are known as post-Panamax. Ships built to the specification of the new canal are called New Panamax.

The E Class and Triple-E Class container ships of the Maersk Company, TI class supertankers and Valemax ore carriers are all too big even for the new canal. Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas cruise ships would fit in the locks, but not clear the Bridge of the Americas at low tide.

The cost of the canal expansion is expected to total 5.25 million U.S. dollars.

Our question, what was the first post-Panamax ship?

Today is International Stuttering Awareness Day. In the United States, it’s unofficially National Nut Day and National Color Day. It’s the birthday of actor Christopher Lloyd, actress Catherine Deneuve, and Olympic figure skating gold medalist Brian Boitano.


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