The Panama Canal was opened for navigation on Sunday, June 26, in a festive ceremony after nine years of reconstruction works.
The Chinese container ship Cosco Shipping Panama was the first vessel that entered the canal from the side of the Atlantic Ocean. The captain of the Chinese ship was presented with a commemorative plaque.
Delegations from tens of countries of the world and representatives of various international organizations took part in the ceremony. The list of foreign guests includes the head of the Taiwan administration, presidents of Chile, Costa Rica, Honduras, Paraguay and the Dominican Republic, as well as the head of the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo.
The idea to build the canal dates back to the 16th century after the discovery of Panama by the Spaniards, and especially after the discovery of the 80-kilometer wide Panama isthmus. However, the project became reality after Panama declared independence from Colombia in 1903.
The construction of the canal began in 1904 and lasted for more than ten years. The work involved 50,000 people from 30 countries. As a result, the canal was opened on August 15, 1914. The first ship that passed through the canal on the day of its opening was the Ancon steamship. However, the canal was officially opened only six years later - in June 1920.
The Panama Canal was leased and managed by the US administration for years before it came under Panamanian jurisdiction in 1999. The canal serves as a transport hub for four percent of world freight trading and 16% of US freight transportation. As much as 68 percent of vessels pass through the canal to or from US ports.
The Panama Canal had restrictions on the parameters of the ships that could pass through it. The works to reconstruct the waterway of the canal began in September 2007. The cost of reconstruction works was estimated originally at $5,25 billion. The works were supposed to end 2014. A dispute between the customer and the contractors, who demanded the payment of additional $3.5 billion delayed the opening of the canal till 2016. The final cost of the reconstruction works will be announced only after the legal dispute with the contractors ends.
The new set of locks, the deeper shipping channel and a number of other improvements will double the throughput capacity of the isthmus for the transportation of goods between the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans.
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