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Monday, January 11, 2010

Panama Canal

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Panama Canal is a ship canal which joins the Atlantic Ocean to the
Pacific Ocean. One of the largest and most difficult engineering projects
ever undertaken; it had an enormous impact on shipping between the two
oceans, replacing the long and treacherous route via the Drake Passage and
Cape Horn at the southernmost tip of South America. A ship sailing from New
York to San Francisco via the canal travels 9,500 km (6,000 miles), well
under half the 22,500 km (14,000 miles) route around Cape Horn. Although the

concept of a canal near Panama dates back to the early 16th century, the
first attempt to construct a canal began in 1880 under French leadership.
After this attempt failed and 21,900 workers died, the project of building a

canal was attempted and completed by the United States in the early 1900s,
with the canal opening in 1914. The building of the 77 km (48 mi) canal was
plagued by problems, including disease (particularly malaria and yellow
fever) and landslides. By the time the canal was completed, a total of 27
500 workmen are estimated to have died in the French and American efforts.

Since opening, the canal has been enormously successful, and continues to be

a key conduit for international maritime trade. The canal can accommodate
vessels from small private yachts up to large commercial vessels. The
maximum size of vessel that can use the canal is known as Panamax; an
increasing number of modern ships exceed this limit, and are known as
post-Panamax or super-Panamax vessels. A typical passage through the canal
by a cargo ship takes approximately 8–10 hours. In fiscal year 2008, 14,702
vessels passed through the waterway with a total 309.6 million Panama
Canal/Universal Measurement System (PC/UMS) tons.

While the Pacific Ocean is west of the isthmus and the Atlantic to the east,

the journey through the canal from the Pacific to the Atlantic is one from
southeast to northwest. This is a result of the isthmus's "curving back on
itself" in the region of the canal. The Bridge of the Americas at the
Pacific end is about a third of a degree of longitude east of the end near
Colon on the Atlantic. An estimated 14,000 ships pass through the canal each

year. Only 1,000 ships per year passed through the canal at its beginnings

History of the Panama Canal

Early efforts

The earliest mention of a canal across the Isthmus of Panama dates back to
1534 when Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain ordered a survey
for a route through Panama that would ease the voyage for ships traveling to

and from Spain and Peru, as well as give the Spanish a tactical military
edge over the Portuguese. During his expedition of 1788–1793, Alessandro
Malaspina demonstrated the feasibility of a canal and outlined plans for its


Given the strategic situation of Panama and its narrow isthmus separating
two great oceans, other forms of trade links were attempted over the years.
The ill-fated Darien scheme was an attempt launched by the Kingdom of
Scotland in 1698 to set up an overland trade route, but was defeated by the
generally inhospitable conditions, and abandoned in July of 1699. Finally,
the Panama Railway was built across the isthmus, opening in 1855. This
overland link became a vital piece of infrastructure, greatly facilitating
trade and largely determining the later canal route.
Construction work on the Gaillard Cut is shown in this photograph from 1907

An all-water route between the oceans was still seen as the ideal solution,
and the idea of a canal was enhanced by the success of the Suez Canal. The
French, under Ferdinand de Lesseps, began construction on a sea-level canal
(i.e., without locks) through what was then Colombia's province of Panama,
on January 1, 1880. The French began work in a rush with insufficient prior
study of the geology and hydrology of the region. In addition, disease,
particularly malaria and yellow fever, sickened and killed vast numbers of
employees, ranging from laborers to top directors of the French company.
Public health measures were ineffective because the role of the mosquito as
a disease vector was then unknown. These conditions made it impossible to
maintain an experienced work force as fearful technical employees quickly
returned to France. Even the hospitals contributed to the problem,
unwittingly providing breeding places for mosquitoes inside the unscreened
wards. Actual conditions were hushed-up in France to avoid recruitment
problems. In 1893, after a great deal of work, the French scheme was
abandoned due to disease and the sheer difficulty of building a sea-level
canal, as well as lack of French field experience, such as downpours causing

steel equipment to rust. The high toll from disease was one of the major
factors in the failure; as many as 22,000 workers were estimated to have
died during the main period of French construction (1881–1889).

Later efforts

According to Stephen Kinzer's 2006 book Overthrow, in 1898 the chief of the
French Canal Syndicate (a group that owned large swathes of land across
Panama), Philippe Bunau-Varilla, hired William Nelson Cromwell (of the US
law firm Sullivan & Cromwell) to lobby the US Congress to build a canal
across Panama, and not across Nicaragua.

In 1902, Cromwell noticed a 10-cent Nicaraguan postal stamp, produced by the

United States' American Bank Note Company, which erroneously depicted a
fuming Momotombo volcano. Momotombo was nearly dormant and stands more than
160 km (100 mi) from the proposed Nicaraguan canal path; yet the stamp had
taken advantage of a particularly volcanic year in the Caribbean. Cromwell
planted a story in the New York Sun reporting that the Momotombo volcano had

erupted and caused a series of seismic shocks. Thereafter he sent leaflets
with the above stamps pasted on them to all U.S. Senators as witness to the
volcanic activity in Nicaragua. On June 19, 1902, three days after senators
received the stamps, they voted for the Panama route for the canal. For his
lobbying efforts, Cromwell received the sum of $800,000.

On January 22, 1903, the Hay-Herran Treaty was signed by United States
Secretary of State John M. Hay and Dr. Tomás Herrán of Colombia. It would
have granted the United States a 99-year lease from Colombia on the land
proposed for the canal. It was ratified by the United States Senate on March

14, 1903, but the Senate of Colombia did not ratify the treaty. Philippe
Bunau-Varilla, chief engineer of the French canal company, told Roosevelt
and Hay of a possible revolt and hoped that the U.S. would support it with
troops and money. President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt changed
tactics, promising support for Panama's intermittent separatist movement. On

November 2, 1903 U.S. warships blocked seaplanes for Colombian troops from
coming to put down the revolt, while dense jungles blocked land routes.
Panama achieved independence on November 3, 1903 when the United States sent

naval forces to encourage Colombia's surrender of the region. The United
States quickly recognized them. Also in November 6, 1903, Phillipe
Bunau-Varilla, Panama's ambassador to the United States, signed the
Hay-Bunau Varilla Treaty, granting rights to the United States to build and
indefinitely administer the Panama Canal. Although Bunau-Varilla was serving

as Panama's ambassador, he was a French citizen and was not authorized to
sign treaties on behalf of Panama without Panamanian review. This treaty
became a contentious diplomatic issue between the two countries, culminating

in riots in which 21 Panamanians and 4 U.S. soldiers were killed on Martyr's

Day, January 9, 1964. The issues were resolved with the signing of the
Torrijos-Carter Treaties in 1977, which returned the former Canal Zone
territories to Panama.

The United States, under President Theodore Roosevelt (with John Frank
Stevens as Chief Engineer from 1905–1907), bought out the French equipment
and excavations for US$40 million and began work on May 4, 1904. The United
States paid Colombia $25,000,000 in 1921, seven years after completion of
the canal, for redress of President Roosevelt's role in the creation of
Panama, and Colombia recognized Panama under the terms of the
Thomson-Urrutia Treaty.

Chief Engineer (1905–1907), John Frank Stevens' primary achievement in
Panama was in building the infrastructure necessary to complete the canal.
He rebuilt the Panama Railway and devised a system for disposing of soil
from the excavations by rail. He also built proper housing for canal workers

and oversaw extensive sanitation and mosquito-control programmes that
eliminated yellow fever and other diseases from the Isthmus. Stevens argued
the case against a sea level canal like the French had tried to build. He
convinced Theodore Roosevelt of the necessity of a canal built with dams and


An investment was made in eliminating disease from the area, particularly
yellow fever and malaria, the causes of which had originally been theorized
by Cuban physician/scientist Dr. Carlos Finlay in 1881 who had identified
the mosquito as the vector that causes the disease. Finlay's theory and
investigative work had recently been confirmed by Dr. Walter Reed while in
Cuba with U.S. Army motivation during the Spanish-American War (see Health
measures during the construction of the Panama Canal). With the diseases
under control, and after significant work on preparing the infrastructure,
construction of an elevated canal with locks began in earnest and was
finally possible. The Americans also gradually replaced the old French
equipment with machinery designed for a larger scale of work (such as the
giant hydraulic crushers supplied by the Joshua Hendy Iron Works), to
quicken the pace of construction. President Roosevelt had the former French
machinery minted into medals for all workers who spent at least two years on

the construction to commemorate their contribution to the building of the
canal. These medals featured Roosevelt's likeness on the front, the name of
the recipient on one side, and the worker's years of service, as well as a
picture of the Culebra Cut on the back.

In 1907 Roosevelt appointed George Washington Goethals as Chief Engineer of
the Panama Canal. The building of the canal was completed in 1914, two years

ahead of the target date of June 1, 1916. The canal was formally opened on
August 15, 1914 with the passage of the cargo ship SS Ancon. Coincidentally,

this was also the same month that fighting in World War I (the Great War)
began in Europe. The advances in hygiene resulted in a relatively low death
toll during the American construction; still, 5,609 workers died during this

period (1904–1914). This brought the total death toll for the construction
of the canal to around 27,500.

By the 1930s it was seen that water supply would be an issue for the canal;
this prompted the building of the Madden Dam across the Chagres River above
Gatun Lake. The dam, completed in 1935, created Madden Lake (later Alajuela
Lake), which acts as additional water storage for the canal. In 1939,
construction began on a further major improvement: a new set of locks for
the canal, large enough to carry the larger warships which the United States

was building at the time and had planned to continue building. The work
proceeded for several years, and significant excavation was carried out on
the new approach channels, but the project was canceled after World War II.

After the war, U.S. control of the canal and the Canal Zone surrounding it
became contentious as relations between Panama and the U.S. became
increasingly tense. Many Panamanians felt that the Canal Zone rightfully
belonged to Panama; student protests were met by the fencing in of the zone
and an increased military presence. Negotiations toward a new settlement
began in 1974, and resulted in the Torrijos-Carter Treaties. Signed by
President of the United States Jimmy Carter and Omar Torrijos of Panama on
September 7, 1977, this mobilized the process of granting the Panamanians
free control of the Canal so long as Panama signed a treaty guaranteeing the

permanent neutrality of the Canal. The treaty led to full Panamanian control

effective at noon on December 31, 1999, and the Panama Canal Authority (ACP)

assumed command of the waterway.

Before this handover, the government of Panama held an international bid to
negotiate a 25-year contract for operation of the container shipping ports
located at the Canal's Atlantic and Pacific outlets. The contract was not
affiliated with the ACP or Panama Canal operations, was won by the firm
Hutchison Whampoa, a Hong Kong-based shipping concern whose owner is Li Ka


The canal consists of artificial lakes, several improved and artificial
channels, and three sets of locks. An additional artificial lake, Alajuela
Lake (known during the American era as Madden Lake), acts as a reservoir for

the canal. The layout of the canal as seen by a ship passing from the
Pacific end to the Atlantic is as follows:

* From the buoyed entrance channel in the Gulf of Panama (Pacific side),
ships travel 13.2 km (8.2 mi) up the channel to the Mira Flores locks,
passing under the Bridge of the Americas
* The two-stage Mira Flores lock system, including the approach wall, is
1.7 km (1.1 mi) long, with a total lift of 16.5 meters (54 ft) at mid-tide
* The artificial Mira Flores Lake is the next stage, 1.7 km (1.0 mi)
long, and 16.5 meters (54 ft) above sea level
* The single-stage Pedro Miguel lock, which is 1.4 km (0.8 mi) long, is
the last part of the ascent with a lift of 9.5 meters (31 ft) up to the main

level of the canal
* The Gaillard (Culebra) Cut slices 12.6 km (7.8 mi) through the
continental divide at an altitude of 26 meters (85 ft), and passes under the

Centennial Bridge
* The Chagres River (el Río Chagres), a natural waterway enhanced by the
damming of Lake Gatún, runs west about 8.5 km (5.3 mi), merging into Lake
* Gatun Lake, an artificial lake formed by the building of the Gatun Dam
carries vessels 24.2 km (15.0 mi) across the isthmus
* The Gatún locks, a three-stage flight of locks 1.9 km (1.2 mi) long,
drop ships back down to sea level
* A 3.2 km (2.0 mi) channel forms the approach to the locks from the
Atlantic side
* Limón Bay (Bahía Limón), a huge natural harbor, provides an anchorage
for some ships awaiting passage, and runs 8.7 km (5.4 mi) to the outer

Thus, the total length of the canal is 50 mi (80 km).

Lock size

Miter lock gate at Gatun

Initially the locks at Gatun had been designed as 28.5 meters (94 ft) wide.
In 1908 the United States Navy requested that the locks should be increased
to have a width of at least 36 meters (120 ft) which would allow the passage

of US naval ships. Eventually a compromise was made and the locks were to be

constructed to a width of 33.53 meters (110.0 ft). Each lock is 320 meters
(1,000 ft) long with the walls ranging in thickness from 15 meters (49 ft)
at the base to 3 meters (9.8 ft) at the top. The central wall between the
parallel locks at Gatun has a thickness of 18 meters (59 ft) and stands in
excess of 24 meters (79 ft) in height. The lock gates are made from steel
and measure an average of 2 meters (6.6 ft) thick, 19.5 meters (64 ft) in
width and 20 meters (66 ft) in height. It is the size of the locks,
specifically the Pedro Miguel Locks, along with the height of the Bridge of
the Americas at Balboa, that determine the Panamax metric and limit the size

of ships that may use the Canal.


Tolls for the canal are decided by the Panama Canal Authority and are based
on vessel type, size, and the type of cargo carried.

For container ships, the toll is assessed per the ship's capacity expressed
in twenty-foot equivalent units or TEUs. One TEU is the size of a container
measuring 20 feet (6.1 m) by 8 feet (2.44 m) by 8.5 feet (2.6 m). Effective
May 1, 2009, this toll is US$72.00 per TEU. A Panamax container ship may
carry up to 4,400 TEU. The toll is calculated differently for passenger
ships and for container ships carrying no cargo ("in ballast") -- as of May
1, 2009 the ballast rate is US$57.60 per TEU.

Passenger vessels in excess of 30,000 tons (PC/UMS), known popularly as
cruise ships", pay a rate based on the number of "berths", that is, the
number of passengers that can be accommodated in permanent beds. The per
berth charge is currently $92 for unoccupied berths and $115 for occupied
berths. Started in 2007, this has greatly increased tolls for such vessels.
Passenger vessels of less than 30,000 tons or with less than 33 tons per
passenger are charged on the same "per ton" schedule as freighters.

Most other types of vessel pay a toll per PC/UMS net ton, in which one "ton"

is actually a volume of 100 cubic feet (2.83 m3). (The calculation of
tonnage for commercial vessels is quite complex.) As of fiscal year 2008,
this toll is US$3.90 per ton for the first 10,000 tons, US$3.19 per ton for
the next 10,000 tons, and US$3.82 per ton for the next 10,000 tons, and US$3

76 per ton thereafter. As with container ships, a reduced toll is charged
for freight ships "in ballast".

Small vessels up to 583 PC/UMS net tons when carrying passengers or cargo,
or up to 735 PC/UMS net tons when in ballast, or up to 1,048 fully loaded
displacement tons, shall be assessed minimum tolls based upon their length

The most expensive regular toll for canal passage to date was charged on May

16, 2008 to the Disney Magic, which paid US$331,200. The least expensive
toll was 36 cents to American adventurer Richard Halliburton who swam the
canal in 1928. The average toll is around US$54,000. The highest fee for
priority passage charged through the Transit Slot Auction System was US$220
300, paid on August 24, 2006 by the Panamax tanker Erikoussa, bypassing a
90-ship queue waiting for the end of maintenance works on the Gatun locks,
thus avoiding a 7-day delay. The normal fee would have been just US$13,430.

Efficiency and maintenance

There were fears that efficiency and maintenance would suffer following the
U.S. withdrawal; however, this does not appear to be the case. Capitalizing
on practices developed during the American administration, canal operations
are improving under Panamanian control. Canal Waters Time (CWT), the average

time it takes a vessel to navigate the canal, including waiting time, is a
key measure of efficiency; according to the ACP, CWT is decreasing.

The accident rate during the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2008 was 0.29
accidents per 1000 transits, down 66.9 percent from 0.89 accidents per 1,000

transits during the same quarter the year prior. An official accident is one

in which a formal investigation is requested and conducted.

Increasing volumes of imports from Asia which previously landed on the U.S.
west coast ports are now passing through the canal to the American east
coast. The total number of oceangoing transits increased to 3,157 in the
fourth quarter of fiscal year 2008 from 3,147 transits year-over-year (the
Canal's fiscal year runs from October to September). This has been coupled
with a steady rise in average ship size and in the numbers of Panamax
vessels passing, so that the total tonnage carried has risen steadily from
227.9 million PC/UMS tons in fiscal year 1999 to 309.6 million tons in 2008.

The Canal set a traffic record in fiscal year 2007 when 312 million tons
transited the waterway. Despite the reduction in total transits due to the
negative impact of vessel size, e.g., the inability of large vessels to
cross in the Gaillard Cut), this represents significant overall growth in
canal capacity.

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has invested nearly US$1 billion in
widening and modernizing the canal, with the aim of increasing capacity by
20 percent. The ACP cites a number of major improvements: included among
them are the widening and straightening of the Gaillard Cut to reduce
restrictions on crossing vessels; the deepening of the navigational channel
in Gatun Lake to reduce draft restrictions and improve water supply; and the

deepening of the Atlantic and Pacific entrances of the canal. This is
supported by new equipment, such as a new drill barge and suction dredger,
and an increase of the tug boat fleet by 20 percent. In addition,
improvements have been made to the operating machinery of the canal,
including an increased and improved tug locomotive fleet, the replacement of

more than 16 km of locomotive track, and new lock machinery controls.
Improvements have been made to the traffic management system to allow more
efficient control over ships in the canal.

The withdrawal of the U.S. has allowed Panama to sell excess electricity
produced by the canal's dams, which was previously prohibited by the U.S.
government. Only 25 percent of the hydroelectric power produced in the canal

system is required to run the canal.


The canal is presently handling more vessel traffic than had ever been
envisioned by its builders. In 1934 it was estimated that the maximum
capacity of the canal would be around 80 million tons per year; as noted
above, canal traffic in 2008 consisted of 309.6 million tons of shipping.

Despite the gains which have been made in efficiency, the canal is soon
expected to approach its maximum capacity. An additional complication is
that the proportion of large (close to Panamax-sized) ships transiting the
canal is increasing steadily; this may result in a further reduction in the
number of transits, even if cargo tonnage rises. In any case, if the canal
is to continue to serve the needs of global shipping, action will be
required to increase its capacity.

The water that is used to raise and lower vessels in the Canal is fed by
gravity from Gatun Lake into each set of locks.


Despite having enjoyed a privileged position for many years, the canal is
increasingly facing competition from other quarters. Because Canal tolls are

expected to rise, some critics have suggested that the Suez Canal may become

a viable alternative for cargo en route from Asia to the U.S. east coast.
The Panama Canal, however, continues to service more than 144 of the world's

trade routes and the majority of Canal traffic comes from the "All-Water
Route" (the route from Asia to the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts via the Panama

The increasing rate of melting of ice in the Arctic Ocean has led to
speculation that the Northwest Passage or Arctic Bridge may become viable
for commercial shipping at some point in the future. This route would save 9

300 km (5,800 mi) on the route from Asia to Europe compared with the Panama
Canal, possibly leading to a diversion of some traffic to that route.
However, such a route is beset by unresolved territorial issues and would
still hold significant problems due to ice.

Water issues

As rain water flows into Gatun Lake at a faster rate, the lake accumulates
excess water during wet months and consequently loses a total of 101,000 m3
(26,681,377 US gal; 22,216,894 imp gal) (52 million U.S. gallons) of fresh
water to the ocean each time a ship transits the canal. Thus, during the dry

season, when there is less rainfall, there is also a shortfall of water in
Gatun Lake.

As a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact and a member of the
World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the ACP has developed an

environmentally and socially sustainable program for expansion, which will
protect the aquatic and terrestrial resources of the Canal Watershed. After
completion, expansion will guarantee the availability and quality of water
resources by using unique water-saving basins at each new lock. These
water-saving basins will diminish water loss and preserve freshwater
resources along the waterway by reutilizing water from the basins into the
locks. Each lock chamber will have three water-saving basins, which will
reuse 60 percent of the water in each transit. There are a total of nine
basins for each of the two lock complexes, and a total of 18 basins for the
entire project.

The Pacific side sea level is about 20 centimeters (8 inches) higher than
that of the Atlantic side due to differences in ocean conditions such as
water densities and weather conditions.

The future

As demand is rising, the canal is positioned to be a significant feature of
world shipping for the foreseeable future. However, changes in shipping
patterns — particularly the increasing numbers of post-Panamax ships — will
necessitate changes to the canal if it is to retain a significant market
share. It is anticipated that by 2011, 37% of the world's container ships
will be too large for the present canal, and hence a failure to expand would

result in a significant loss of market share. The maximum sustainable
capacity of the present canal, given some relatively minor improvement work
is estimated at between 330 and 340 million PC/UMS tons per year; it is
anticipated that this capacity will be reached between 2009 and 2012. Close
to 50% of transiting vessels are already using the full width of the locks.

An enlargement scheme similar to the 1939 Third Lock Scheme, to allow for a
greater number of transits and the ability to handle larger ships, has been
under consideration for some time and has been approved by the government of

Panama. This proposal to expand the Canal was approved in a national
referendum by approximately 80% on October 22, 2006.

Third set of locks project

The current plan is for two new flights of locks to be built parallel to,
and operated in addition to, the old locks: one to the east of the existing
Gatún locks, and one south west of Mira Flores locks, each supported by
approach channels. Each flight will ascend from ocean level direct to the
Gatún Lake level; the existing two-stage ascent at Mira Flores / Pedro
Miguel will not be replicated. The new lock chambers will feature sliding
gates, doubled for safety, and will be 427 meters (1,400 ft) long, 55 meters

(180 ft) wide, and 18.3 meters (60 ft) deep; this will allow the transit of
vessels with a beam of up to 49 meters (160 ft), an overall length of up to
366 meters (1,200 ft) and a draft of up to 15 meters (50 ft), equivalent to
a container ship carrying around 12,000 20-foot (6.1 m) long containers

The new locks will be supported by new approach channels, including a 6.2 km

(3.8 mi) channel at Mira Flores from the locks to the Gaillard Cut, skirting

around Mira Flores Lake. Each of these channels will be 218 meters (715 ft)
wide, which will require post-Panamax vessels to navigate the channels in
one direction at a time. The Gaillard Cut and the channel through Gatún Lake

will be widened to no less than 280 meters (918 ft) on the straight portions

and no less than 366 meters (1,200 ft) on the bends. The maximum level of
Gatún Lake will be raised from reference height 26.7 meters (87.5 ft) to 27
1 meters (89 ft).

Each flight of locks will be accompanied by nine water reutilization basins
(three per lock chamber), each basin being approximately 70 meters (230 ft)
wide, 430 meters (1410 ft) long and 5.50 meters (18 ft) deep. These
gravity-fed basins will allow 60% of the water used in each transit to be
reused; the new locks will consequently use 7% less water per transit than
each of the existing lock lanes. The deepening of Gatún Lake, and the
raising of its maximum water level, will also provide significant extra
water storage capacity. These measures are intended to allow the expanded
canal to operate without the construction of new reservoirs.

The estimated cost of the project is US$5.25 billion. The project is
designed to allow for an anticipated growth in traffic from 280 million
PC/UMS tons in 2005 to nearly 510 million PC/UMS tons in 2025; the expanded
canal will have a maximum sustainable capacity of approximately 600 million
PC/UMS tons per year. Tolls will continue to be calculated based on vessel
tonnage, and will not depend on the locks used.

The new locks are expected to open for traffic in 2015. The present locks,
which will be 100 years old by that time, will then have greater access for
maintenance, and are projected to continue operating indefinitely. An
article in the February 2007 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine describes
the plans for the canal, focusing on the engineering aspects of the
expansion project.

On September 3, 2007, thousands of Panamanians stood across Paraíso Hill in
Panama to witness a huge explosion and the launch of the Expansion Program.
The first phase of the project will be dry excavations of the 218 meter (715

ft) wide trench connecting the Culebra Cut with the Pacific coast, removing
47 million cubic meters of earth and rock.

Building the new canal

The Flemish (Northern Belgium) dredging company Jan De Nul has been awarded
the major Panama Canal contract, together with a consortium of contractors
consisting of the Spanish Sacyr Vallehermoso, the Italian Impregilo and the
Panamanian company Cusa. The contract will result in 100 million dollars in
dredging works over the next few years for the company. In addition, there
will also be a great deal of work in the contract for the company's
construction division, with six new locks to be built. The design of the
locks is a carbon copy of the Berendrecht lock in the Port of Antwerp, which

De Nul helped build in the 1980s and the company still has engineers and
specialists who were part of that project. Between six months' and a year's
worth of analyses and engineering will be required before construction can
effectively start.

Canal Pilots

During the last one hundred years, the Autoridad Del Canal de Panamá has appointed a few "Panama Canal Honorary Pilots." The most recent of these were Commodore Ronald Warwick a former Master of RMS Cunard's Queen Mary 2, who has traversed the Canal as Captain more than 50 times, and Captain Raffaele Minotauro, Master Senior Grade, of the former Italian governmental navigation company known in the shipping world as the "Italian Line."

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