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:. . Central America:. . Panama Canal

The Panama Canal is a passageway that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the country of Panama. Panama was chosen because it is the narrowest landmass between these two oceans. The Canal is approximately 50 miles long. It consists of three locks and dams that enable ships to travel from the Port of Cristobal on the Atlantic side to the Port of Balboa on the Pacific side and vice versa. Ships can navigate through the Canal in approximately 24 hours.

During the more than 80 years of the Canal’s existence, over 800,000 ships have taken advantage of this short cut. Currently, nearly 40 ships pass through the Canal each day. Ships traveling through the Canal pay by weight, which can be very expensive. Each ship must pay tens of thousands of dollars. The highest toll a ship ever paid to sail through the canal was $165,235 (the lowest was less than a dollar paid for a man who wanted to swim through the Canal in the 1920s). Despite the seemingly high fees, the savings in fuel and time make it worth the Canal’s fee. It would cost more money to maintain ships during the extra several thousand miles and extra several days it would take to sail around South America.

The world’s largest ships, such as supertankers, can not fit through the Canal. And even Panamax ships (the term given to the largest ships that can actually fit through the Canal) have a difficult time fitting. They have only two feet of extra space on each side of the locks.



The Panama Canal
..|..Pre-Canal History ..| The Canal, 1914-1999..|..Economic Importance..|..Current Issues

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