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What has changed since the Panama Canal Expansion?

vessel moving cargo through the panama canal after the neopanamax locks have been completed

Why expand the Panama Canal?

The Panama Canal has been vital for international trade since it’s creation in the early 1900’s. While it has been incredibly useful, it has since needed an upgrade. Between the increase in international trade and the development of larger ships, the Panama canal needs to keep up. This is why the Panama Canal expansion project began.

What changed during the Panama Canal Expansion?

three locks expansion

Dredging helps deepen the canal, allowing larger ships to pass through easily.

The Third Lane – Perhaps the biggest change in the Panama Canal has been the addition of a third lane. This lets more ships pass through the canal at any given time, drastically increasing traffic through the port.

The Third Set of Locks – The third lane means a third set of locks to balance the flow of water and prevent flooding or bottom scraping. This had to be completed after the third lane had been cleared and formed.

The Deepening – For the other lanes, dredging was done to make larger ships such as Neopanamax vessels clear through easier and with no risk of taking damage from the low levels.

One year Later, what has changed?

So far, the Panama Canal has had their third set of locks open now since June of last year, and so far 13,000 ships have passed through the third lane, including the largest cargo ship in the world. While this has increased overall traffic so far, can it be heralded as a success?

Time points to yes, but if you want to show what a true achievement this is you need to look at the competitors of the Panama Canal during the construction.

panama canal expansionThe Nicaraguan Canal – The Nicaraguan Canal was the first big opponent to the Nicaraguan Canal and was supposed to open up trade through the earthquake-prone country. But as investors fell through, so did the prospect of a South American competitor.

The Suez Canal – The Suez Canal was the other major canal that was also undergoing radical changes. While it was completed sooner, it also cost 3 billion more than the Panama Canal. These are both great advances for international trade.


A1WWL has been in the business of freight forwarding for many years, and when we read about how the Panama canal has grown, we get excited for the future of our profession. If you would like to learn more about the canal or freight forwarding, please give us a call today!

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