In a rain soaked ceremony Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli announced the $3.1Billion expansion of the eponymous Panama Canal that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The Panamanian President was flanked by Latin American dignitaries included Presidents from Colombia, Guatemala and Honduras. Also in attendance were the Italian Premier Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Spanish dignitaries, both country’s are leading a construction consortium to expand the canal to have a third set of locks.
The 49 mile-long canal handles 5% of the world’s trade and is managed by the Panamanian government since 1999 and before then jointly by the U.S.-Panamanian government. It is considered one of the most critical international maritime passages in the world with 15,000 ships carrying 200 million tons of cargo annually. The expansion will allow larger ships to travel through the canal. Originally built in 1904, the Panama Canal can accommodate 875 foot ships not allowing the much larger ships built today for carrying cargo.