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As People Rejoiced, the Panama Canal Reopened Wider and Deeper

June 26, 2016 (EIRNS)—As thousands waved flags and sang along with the band, a Chinese ship carrying 9,000 containers entered the newly expanded locks, that will double the Panama Canal’s capacity, on the inauguration of an expanded Panama Canal, CBS News reported today.

When the $5.4 billion expansion project opened today, it nearly tripled the capacity of the original canal, allowing ships carrying up to 14,000 containers a quicker path between Asia and the U.S.A. CBS News report said.

In addition to the widened Panama Canal, another massive canal, the Grand Interoceanic Canal of Nicaragua, is now in the early stages of construction. That waterway will stretch roughly 180 miles across Nicaragua to unite the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and it will be able to handle ships far larger than even the newly-widened Panama Canal. Giant container ships could begin making the passage by 2019, according to the most optimistic projections.

Panama began the expansion nearly a decade ago. Originally planned to open in late 2014 around the waterway’s centennial, the new locks can accommodate ships that carry up to three times the cargo of those previously able to use the canal. Grupo Unidos por el Canal, the Italian- and Spanish-led consortium that spearheaded construction, handed the project over on June 24.

Opening in 1914, the original Panama Canal was a marvel of engineering. It took 44 years to complete, but it transformed global trade by creating a shortcut between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. However, as ships grew in size, the canal faced mounting pressure to expand. The current canal can accommodate ships carrying up to 5,000 containers.

"The expansion project, started in 2007, required a third set of locks to raise and lower ships between the varying heights of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans,"

said Ilya de Marotta, lead manager of the expansion project for the Panama Canal Authority, USA Today reported on June 25. The locks use about 50 million gallons of water—the average daily consumption of the city of New Orleans—to move each ship through.

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