Much has changed in the 100 years since the opening of the Panama Canal in 1904, ships have grown three times larger, much heavier and more frequent as the world economy has expanded. International maritime trade has increased tenfold in that time period and the demands of the shipping industry have never been greater. Keeping up with the needs of shipping has become a major priority for the nation of Panama which is nearing completion of the largest infrastructure project of its kind, the expansion of the Panama Canal.
At a cost of over $5 billion dollars, the Panama Canal Construction Project stands as one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects in all of Central America if not the entire world. The project has carved a new 6.1 km channel to add width to both the Pacific and Atlantic lanes. When completed, both lanes will be about one and one-half times as large as their original. With this expansion along with a system of new locks and a modernization of the gates, the canal expects to double its shipping capacity from the current 300 tons to 600 by 2025.
The project is international in scope and includes organizations from the United States, Spain, Belgium, and Argentina. Italy provided concrete and stone and constructed the 16 new gates. A Belgium company did the dredging for the widening of the canal, with most of the labor provided by the host nation of Panama. It is estimated that the project created over 7000 local jobs.
According to the official website of the Panama Canal expansion, the project required over six years of research into the economic and technological feasibility, the economic demand and environmental impact of the project. As of January 2016, most aspects of the project are about 95% completed. The Project is due to be completed sometime in 2016.