The Panama Canal is a man made 51 mile long waterway in Panama, believed by many to be a modern wonder of the world, connecting the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean, saving ships time and money having to sail around South America. A vast shipping channel in its own right, took over 33 years to complete whilst claiming the lives of some 25,000 workers, who faced lethal obstacles such as the terrain being extremely challenging, the hot and humid weather, very heavy rainfall, and a range of tropical diseases and infections claiming many lives.

France first attempted to build the canal through the Isthmus of Panama, in the early 1800’s but unfortunately were unsuccessful in their attempt. The United States of America took over the building of the canal in 1904, and at the peak of the canals construction over a million cubic yards of the earth was moved by around 25,000 workers each and every day. The canal was finally completed in 1914.

From a commercial point of view, the canal enables the shipping of a wide range of commercial goods and products, including grain to cars! Time and money was saved as cargo was transported more quickly and efficiently between both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Before the canal was completed, ships sailing between New York and San Francisco headed towards Cape Horn, the most Southerly point of South America and had taken around 60 days and 12,000 miles to complete! I can imagine that, when the canal was completed there would have been absolute elation, as the duration of this trip dropped to anything from 8 to 10 hours, and a mere 4000 miles to complete!

The majority of ships are American who use the canal, closely followed by China, Japan, Colombia and Chile. Every ship that uses the canal to transit has to pay a toll fee, the fee is dependent on the size of the ship and the volume of cargo on board.

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