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Panama Canal Upgrades 1930-2007

Throughout its history, the Canal has continually transformed its structure and adjusted to trade requirements and international maritime transport technologies. In this manner, the Canal has managed to increase its competitiveness in a sustainable manner. Within the process of transforming and adjusting the Canal to the growing and changing demand, several projects stand out for their successful execution:

(1) the construction of Madden Dam between 1930 and 1936, a project aimed at increasing Canal water capacity and flood control in Chagres River;

(2) the locks lighting projects of 1964 and 1977, aimed at increasing Canal capacity by permitting night lockages;

(3) the renovation of the locomotives fleet, initiated in 1964, with the object of improving reliability and increasing Canal operational capacity by reducing lockage times and facilitating routine and safe transit of Panamax vessels;

(4) the Gaillard Cut widening from 91.5 m (300') to 152 m (500') between 1957 and 1971, in response to increase in Panamax vessels transits

(5) the deepening of navigational channels in the 1970s, with the intention of maintaining the route's competitiveness by offering its users a highly reliable depth that met their draft requirements.

In order to increase the capacity to handle the continuous growth in the number of transits and vessel size, a number of works had been completed from the 1980s to 2007.

(1) the Gaillard Cut widening from 152 m (500') to 192 m (630');

(2) the replacement of all lock locomotive tracks;

(3) the replacement and increase of the locomotives fleet with modern and powerful units; (4) the increase and modernization of the tugboat fleet

(5) the deepening of Gatun Lake's and Gaillard Cut's navigational channels; the objective of this project was to raise the system's usable water yield, as well as to deepen Canal's Pacific and Atlantic side entrances in order to enhance navigational safety.

Conscious that the Canal is the main economic resource of the Republic of Panama, the Board of Directors and administration of the ACP, in furtherance of their responsibilities, developed a 20-year Master Plan, which laid out the strategic foundations for the Canal's second century of operation. Beginning in 1998, the Canal administration initiated a program of studies and investigations directed toward identifying the future requirements of the waterway from a long-term perspective.

As of 2000 these studies, which originally only included investigations of its water resources, were expanded to address a wide range of social, environmental, market, competitiveness, engineering, operational, financial, economic and legal issues. This extensive and complete research program, without precedent in Canal history, determined that there was an increasing, profitable and robust maritime transport demand for the Panamanian route. It also concluded that a great part of this growing demand uses, in Canal competitor routes, vessels that do not fit through the present Canal, on account of their dimensions.



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