The Panama Canal Expansion

May 24, 2010
Built in the 1800s, the Panama Canal is a ship canal constructed to improve maritime trade. It bridges the Pacific and Atlantic oceans in order to shorten the distance cargo ships need travel. While this is typically a good thing for business, it may now be getting better as a new project aimed at expanding the canal has been proposed by the Panama Canal Authority.

The project goes by the name of the Third Set of Locks Project. This name is related to one of its goals, which is to construct lock complexes at both the Atlantic and Pacific ends of the canal. These lock systems are aimed at resolving the water preservation issues which have come up in the past with the canal's continued use. The Panama Canal Authority also aims to not only construct additional access channels to the canal but widen those that already exist. These channels will all also had their depth increased when the project has finished.

The canal expansion is what has been termed a mega project. Mega projects are endeavors which can and often do have very widespread impacts upon the surrounding environment and neighboring communities. They often cost a significant amount that is well above one billion US dollars and tend to get a lot of attention. This can naturally lead to a great deal of publicity and discussion related to the project.

Having started in September 2007, it is expected that the project will be completed by 2015. This is likely a result of the many organizations and individuals that were in favor of it. This was likely due to the canal expansion's potential benefits which would affect both the country itself and those who traverse it. For example, the project is supposed to pay for itself in time as well as bring a substantial return on investment.

Some other benefits expected to be brought about by the canal expansion include the reduction in poverty around the country. This is due to the expected rise in demand for work being done on and in relation to the expansion project. Some figures have put this reduction in poverty at around 30%. Naturally it is also expected that with improved channels and an additional lane of traffic there will be increases in toll revenues.

For those who have investments within the shipping industry as or trade that goes on throughout the canal this can mean big profits as well. The increase in capacity for cargo ships will likely make for more revenue. This increase in return can directly impact not only traders and businessmen but the country of Panama itself. With these propose financial benefits, however, there is still a question of the environmental effects of the canal expansion.

The Panama Canal Authority has claimed that there will be no major damage done environmentally by the project. Its working area is said to consist of operational and administrative areas already controlled by this organization. As such no communities would need to be moved by the project. Furthermore it is said that the lock system being installed would sufficiently mitigate any other environmental impact to the water of the canal.

As stated previously it is expected that this project will be concluded by the year 2015. With its completion it is expected that there will be new prosperity within the country of Panama. Time will tell and many will be watching this project closely.