by Ben Nuelle
A date has been set for the opening of The Panama Canal expansion.
Officials at the Panama Canal Authority say the canal will open for transit and commercial business Sunday June 26th. The expansion began in September 2007 and was expected to be completed by August 2014… but delays and contract disputes slowed down the construction process.
Mike Steenhoek is Soy Transportation Coalition Executive Director. He visited the Panama Canal with Iowa soybean farmers in December.
Steenhoek says the Panamanians understand the importance of expanding the canal but also maintaining it.
“This is a project that was first opened in 1914. The original canal and when you go and view you do not see crumbling concrete or leaky gates. It really is in stark contrast with the locks and dams we have in our country that aren’t as old. They were built in the 1930s. Yes, they are old but they are not a hundred years old but the Panamanians have really embraced the canal and they take care of it,”.
Steenhoek says the new locks will allow bigger ships and enable them to be much more efficient.
“Utilizing the newer canal, we’ll be able to load ships with an additional 500,000 bushels of soybeans and we anticipate it could exceed beyond that so a 500,000-bushel increase over a 2.1-million-bushel increase is a very noticeable increase.”
The Panama Canal expansion is comprised of two new sets of locks, excavation for new entrance channels, widening and deepening of the existing channels, and Raising the water level of Gatun Lake – the source of fresh water that allows the gravity operated canal to function. The original projected cost of the expansion is $5.25 billion. The final cost upon completion is expected to be higher.