History of the Panama Canal
During the 1800s, businessmen didn’t have an efficient or quick way to ship goods between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. The British proposed a canal through Nicaragua that was never built and the French attempted to build a canal through Panama but evacuated the project due to fatal diseases. Despite the unsuccessful attempts, Americans were undeterred. In 1914, the United States began to build a canal in Panama.
In 2006, the Panamanian government authorized the first major expansion of the Panama Canal since it opened in 1917. The expansion is set to be complete in 2016. (As of April 2016, the project was 98% completed). The expansion is expected to double the capacity of the canal.
The Panama Canal is an important link to global trade, accepting an estimated 5% of the world’s total cargo volume. It takes a ship about 8-10 hours to make its way through the canal. The canal serves over 140 maritime trade routes to over 80 countries. American ships use the canal the most, followed by China, Chile, Japan, Columbia and South Korea. Every vessel must pay a toll based on its size and cargo volume. Tolls for the largest ships can run as high as $450,000.