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Panama Canal Kicks Off Centennial Celebrations

by Mike Godfrey,, Washington

29 August 2013

August 15, 2013, marked the beginning of an important countdown for the Panama Canal Authority towards next August's centennial celebrations. A series of events planned over the course of the following twelve months will highlight the waterway's contribution to the world economy during the past 99 years, and focus on the challenges that lie ahead.

The countdown began with the presentation of the Panama Canal Centennial logo on the control house balcony at the Miraflores Locks in a ceremony attended by members of the ACP Board of Directors and Panama Canal executives.

"During the year of celebration that we start today, we will pay tribute to the different representations of human ingenuity that made uniting two oceans a possibility," Panama Canal Administrator Jorge Quijano said. "These representations include the human epic, the technological innovations, and the cultural, economic and social impacts that will forever define the Panama Canal in the world."

Since its opening 99 years ago, the Panama Canal has become a facilitator of international trade by making trading distances shorter, reducing costs and navigational times.

"The Panama Canal has connected the world since August 15, 1914," ACP Board of Directors Chairman Roberto Roy added. "Proof of this is the 14,000 ships that transit each year, reaching 1,700 ports in 160 countries."

The Authority plans to use the Centennial to highlight the present operations of the waterway, while emphasizing how it is preparing to face the challenges of the growth and development of the global shipping industry through its Expansion Program.

In a major milestone for the Canal Expansion Program, the first four gates for the new locks arrived on August 20, 2013. Built by Italy-based subcontractor Cimolai SpA, the first four gates are 57.6 meters long, 10 meters wide and 30.19 meters high, and weigh an average of 3,100 tons. They will be installed in the middle chamber of the new locks in the Atlantic side.

The new locks of the expanded Panama Canal have a total of 16 rolling gates (eight for each new lock complex). Unlike the current Canal, which uses miter gates, the expanded Canal will have steel rolling gates.

The Panama Canal Authority has estimated that the Expansion project is 62 percent complete as part of efforts to add a third lane of traffic allowing for the passage of Post-Panamax vessels — vessels with a cargo capacity of up to 13,000 twenty-foot equivalent units — eventually doubling the Canal's capacity.

TAGS: marine

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