Celebrations and support from the people of Panama erupted on Sunday, when the expanded Panama Canal was opened on June 26th, 2016. Panama Canal is mainly used by the United States and China for trade and transportation. The new canal is said to allow for the passing of 98 percent of the ships in the ocean and will account for 80 percent of the current “world liquefied natural gas tanker fleet, compared with the 7 percent that could pass through old facilities.” With the $5 billion ten year expansion project, Panama hopes to generate three times the amount of revenue from canal shipping fees, and wants to make transportation more efficient with its new locks. However, these goals may still take some time to reach due to the drop in shipping prices and the unexpected problems that have arisen with the expanded canal.
During the recent droughts in Panama, ships have had to “significantly lighten their loads” to maintain water levels so they do not hit the bottom of the canal. On top of that, the tugboats that are supposed to guide the ships through the canal are very unstable, and the locks may be too small for the tugboats to safely escort the ships through. Additionally, some worry that the workers operating the tugboats are not trained well enough, since their training takes place on a lake where the boats are twenty-five times smaller than the actual ships.
The concrete aligning the walls of the locks has cracks through which water has been gushing out and has not been properly reinforced due to their tight budget. Another problem that the Panama Canal faces is earthquakes. Risks have been arising for workers and for the canal as high magnitude earthquakes have been hitting Panama, and just in the past year, the country has experienced 43 earthquakes.
Aside from the risks, Panama is rooting for the canal to work after additional renovations. Workers and union leaders are determined to bring in more water, fix the concrete walls, and make room for bigger ships to come through the expanded Panama Canal.