Shipping in the Panama Canal

Shipping in the Panama Canal


In June 2016, the new third lane, which doubled its capacity, of the Panama Canal expansion project opened.  This expansion allowed for Panamax ships, which are 1,200 feet long and carry three times the cargo of the previous 965-foot-long ships.


The Panama Canal allows boats to travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific through the Caribbean Ocean and vice versa.  The canal saves ships from going over 5,000 miles out of the way, to go around South America.


There are many factors that had to be considered when the canal was built. The Caribbean Ocean is lower than the Pacific, the tides, and lastly the Isthmus at Panama. This is where the engineering comes into play.  The ships will go through a series of locks that rises the ship, then lowers it back down to sea level.  This trip is 51 miles long and takes roughly 13 hours to travel.


The Panama Canal plays a vital part in the U.S. Economy.  The canal reduces inflation, which keeps the cost of goods down.  By 2018, the five ports that carry the majority of U.S. imports, Los Angeles/Long Beach (LA/LB), New York/New Jersey (NY/NJ), Seattle/Tacoma, Savannah and Oakland, will be able to receive the Post-Panamax ships.  The canal is great for the economy because it will create more jobs and allow the U.S. better access to markets in China.  Since the expansion, the port traffic is up 29 percent bringing millions of dollars to the U.S. ports.  It is now actually cheaper to ship goods via the Canal to Los Angeles than by truck or rail.


This expansion has sped up the shipping process from China to the U.S. east coast and rail.  Ships typically take 12.3 days to sail from China to the west coast.  Then to get to the east coast, the cargo is put on a train which makes the total trip 18.3 days.  This is the most common route of Asian imports to the U.S.

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