The Panama Canal was opened 100 years ago in 1914, connecting the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic, via the Caribbean Sea, vastly speeding up transit for shipping and cruise liners.
The 48-mile stretch took 10 years to complete and was hailed as a marvel of engineering when it finally opened in August 1914. The US ran the waterway until 1999 before relinquishing operational control to the Panama Canal Authority (PCA).
According to the PCA, approximately 200 cruise ship crossings are expected to take place this year. The alternative route is an epic voyage around Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America.
EXPANSION WORK SLOWS
Work to expand the Panama Canal has slowed by up to 75 percent due to a dispute with the consortium of European companies hired for the project, a Panama government source said last week.
The group, Grupo Unidos por el Canal, was hired in 2009 to build a third set of massive canal locks, costing $3.1 billion.
The canal at the Central American isthmus has undergone several expansion projects in its 100 years, in order to accommodate larger vessels and keep pace with global trade.
The current expansion effort is the most ambitious, but shipping industry representatives believe the government shares the blame, the Wall Street Journal has reported. Contracts have been awarded while there are serious concerns of vast overspending.
Scheduled completion of the canal expansion, which handles five percent of global maritime trade, has been pushed back to June 2015.