Panama Canal – Century Celebration and the upcoming expansion!

By Eliecer Andres Lay



What is the Panama Canal? It is a waterway between the Atlantic Ocean (via the Caribbean Sea) and the Pacific Ocean, across the Isthmus of Panama at its narrowest point. Its construction represented one of the greatest successes of modern engineering. It is 80 kilometers from one point to another, with a depth of 12-13 meters and a width of 90 to 300 meters, depending on the section. Panama Canal has two port terminals, one in each ocean, and three sets of locks, and one of the largest artificial lakes (Gatun Lake) in the world.


Since its opening, Panama Canal has had important effects on the transport around the world – short time and distance, maritime communication and fostering of trade. The major users of this pathway are the United States, China, Chile, Japan and South Korea, and generally the products being transported by the vessels are grain and oil, among others products. The Panama Canal website says that over 700,000 have crossed the Canal boats for 100 years. Since its opening, which occurred on August 15, 1914, it has had a huge positive impact on the economy of Panama.

The Panama Canal has greatly influenced the integration and cohesion of Panamanian territory, to consecrate the physical (economic and cultural) separation of the capital and the provinces. And this also has its history:

  • In 1931 the Thatcher Ferry put up three ferries that connected the two banks.
  • In 1942, opened a swinging bridge, which already represented a breakthrough in communications, but this only worked when no ships passed through the canal.
  • In 1962, the Bridge of the Americas, a beautiful and vital artery of 1,654 meters long and 118 meters above sea level, which runs the channel outlet to the Pacific Ocean opens.
  • In 2005 Panama began offering services of the Centennial Bridge, the second structure that allows traffic between the capital and inland populations. This is 15km. north of the Bridge of the Americas, crosses the Gaillard Cut and measures 1052 meters with an elevation of 80 meters.

 The authority of Panama Canal has created a website in honor to commemorate the century of the Canal and this is what they wrote:

Panama is going to celebrate the 100th Canal Anniversary by different events throughout the year. The events will highlight the aspects that have made the Panama Canal an international symbol, but also have an eye on Panama`s future, as well as celebrate Panama’s full sovereignty over the Canal, shared the Canal administrator, Jorge Luis Quijano. First of all, the Canal management got a new name. The former brand “Autoridad de Canal de Panama” (ACP) has been changed to the less aggressive “Canal De Panama” (CDP) which also demonstrates the independence from the US. The change of the name brand comes along with a new brand logo and a new, pleasing sub title that reads “La maravilla eres tú.” (You are the wonder.) In addition to that, a temporary event logo for the CDP has been developed in order to tag the centennial year as a special event recognizable to everybody. The anniversary logo was introduced to the public while the official opening ceremony for the Anniversary Countdown on August 14, 2013 at the Miraflores Locks in Panama.

As a cooperation between Panama`s City of Knowledge (Ciudad del Saber) and Fundación Arte y Cultura Panama, a second event has also already taken place. City of Knowledge hosted an extensive book exhibition under the name “The Panama Canal and its Architectural Legacy (1905-1920)” that tried to make up a connection between the public and “those figures whose ideas and work served largely to form the character of architecture and landscape of the former Canal Zone.”


As an open space the Cinta Costera Project is already showcasing Panama`s rapid growth thereby giving a warm welcome to visitors that will be impressed by a skyline of Panama City with the international flavor of cities like Buenos Aires or Shanghai.

With Frank Gehry`s Biodiversity Museum on the Causeway of Balboa, Panama also celebrates itself as a pivot point for the past of the continents. The new “Bridge of Life”, as the architect himself refers to the unconventional building, can be seen from Panama Bay, as well as from the Canal entrance. On 4000 square meters it will host several exhibitions in the future, highlighting Panama`s extraordinary biodiversity.


Last but not least, Panama celebrates the Canal by a generous but also necessary expansion project that includes new locks, wider shipping lanes and bigger ports, all together worth over 5 billion Dollars. Nowadays, construction is underway for these third set of locks, which is a massive project to expand the Panama Canal. This extension will be the largest since the construction of the canal. The Panama Canal Authority proposed the project after years of study. Panamanian Ex-President Martín Torrijos presented the plan on April 24, 2006 and Panamanian citizens approved it shortly afterwards.

The official opening of the new Canal was set for August 14, 2014 and was going to be accompanied by several festival events throughout the city. Since this is such a huge undertaking, the completion has been delayed for a year or two. The Panamanians as well as the rest of the world are anxiously waiting to see this project come to an end and also to see what impact this will have on trade around the world.

This 100 year old Canal which manages five percent of worldwide shipments, thereby connecting more than 144 routes, 1,700 ports and 160 countries, can be considered one of the most influential human accomplishments of the past Century. Today there are hardly any Panamanians that are not affected by the Canal which brings the country billions of annual income and offers almost 10,000 local jobs.

The Panama Canal has been a fundamental part in Panama’s growing economy as well as global economy. It not only has brought benefit into our country but in the community, culture and more. It has created a multicultural, diverse and heterogeneous society in a country that was growing at that time. The country was completely transformed after the creation of the Canal. United States invested a huge amount of money in improving the condition of existing infrastructure, which improved the quality of life, especially in cities near the Canal itself.

As a Panamanian, I am excited to see how the economy and job prospects continue to improve for the average Panamanian. I am hoping that the rest of the country also continues to benefit from these canal improvements. Panama is a developing nation and the Panama Canal has been a major source of income to our people for the past century and will hopefully continue to be for the coming century! Come on down and visit Miraflores Locks in Panama City, take a cruise through the canal, take a train ride or drive the distance to see Gatun Lake and the city of Colon, visit the many museums that show the construction and history of the Panama Canal. This is my invitation to the visitors and people considering relocating to my beautiful country!


  1. Congrats. This article is really interesting and make us proud of being Panamanians. Thanks to all men and women who, for 100 years have kept this important via working for world´s benefit.

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