Take 2' / 13 Mar 2022

10 facts about the Panama Canal

by Alexei Oduber, MD of GAC Panama

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The Canal was part of Alexei Oduber’s backyard when he was growing up. He knows how it looks. He knows its moods. He knows how it smells depending on the wind direction. He has crossed it by ship and by air, he has walked and ridden around it in sporting competitions. And every year, he and his team ensure hundreds of vessels transit smoothly. He shares some favourite facts.

AO at locks
  1. The first recorded plan for a canal across the Isthmus of Panama dates back to 1534. The canal idea was revisited many times and after several failed attempts, it opened in 1914.
  2. About 1,000 ships transited the Canal in its first year. In 2021, the figure topped 12,500
  3. The 51 mile (82km) long Canal shrinks a voyage from New York to San Francisco of more than 13,000 miles (20,921km) around South America and Cape Horn, down to just over 5,000 miles (8,047km)
  4. By shrinking the route between the two oceans, the Canal saves more than 13 million tons of CO2 equivalent emissions, as calculated by the Canal’s CO2 Emissions Savings Dashboard
  5. I am one of a select group of people who commute from ocean to ocean every week. I split my days between the Pacific and Atlantic sides of the Canal.
  6. The sea level of the Pacific is a little higher than the Atlantic, so there are three locks that raise or lower transiting vessels. Also, the tide at the Pacific entrance can rise as much as 16 feet (4.88m), but the movement on the Atlantic side is just 3 feet (0.91m)
  7. The American Society of Civil Engineers has ranked the Panama Canal one of the seven wonders of the modern world.
  8. The Canal has been under sole control of Panama since 1999 and is my country’s major revenue earner.
  9. A big expansion project completed in 2016 added a third lane to the Canal for the transit of Neopanamax vessels
  10. In 2021, the GAC Panama team coordinated the movement of nearly 15 million gross shipping tons through the waterway, and organised Covid-safe crew changes for 2,380 seafarers.
Vessel passing thru Panama Canal no marks

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