The Panama Canal is a ship canal administered by the Republic of Panama. The 50-mile long canal connects the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans through the Isthmus of Panama. Considered to be one of the most strategic artificial waterways in the world, it reduces time and shortens distance of the ships sailing between the east and west coasts of the United States. Ships using this route can shorten their distance by around 8,000 nautical miles or 15,000 km. By using the canal, ships sailing between Europe and East Asia or Australia can trim their journey by as much as 2,000 nautical miles or 3,700 km.
Later on, French engineer Philippe-Jean Bunau-Varilla, who had earlier been involved in France’s canal projects, called upon American lawmakers to buy French assets in Panama. In 1902, the Congress gave permission to buy French assets. However, Panama was a part of Colombia at that time and it refused to ratify an agreement to allow US to build the canal. Encouraged by the US, Panamanians led a successful revolt against Colombia and declared their independence. Thereupon, John Hay, US Secretary of State, and Bunau-Varilla, who at that time was acting as a representative of Panama’s provisional government, negotiated the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty. This treaty gave the US access to more than 500 square miles and enabled it to construct a canal. Previously under American control, in 1999, the ownership of the Panama Canal was taken over by the government of Panama. It is now operated by the Panama Canal Authority.
Important facts and trivia
- The highest toll was paid by a Disney cruise ship in 2008. This amounted to $330,000.
- It has been estimated that every year between 12,000 and 15,000 ships pass the Panama Canal.
- Fluorescent lighting was installed in 1963. This enabled the canal to be operated 24-hours a day.
- In 1994, the American Society of Civil Engineers named the Panama Canal as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.
- Ships traveling between New York and San Francisco save 7,872 miles by using the Panama Canal. Otherwise they would have to go around the Cape Horn.
Last Updated : April 01, 2015