Expanding the Panama Canal

In 2006, Panamanians approved a referendum to expand the Panama Canal, doubling its capacity and allowing far larger ships to transit the 100-year-old waterway between the Atlantic and Pacific. Work began in 2007 to raise the capacity of Gatun Lake and build two new sets of locks, which would accommodate ships carrying up to 14,000 containers of freight, tripling the size limit. Sixteen massive steel gates, weighing an average of 3,100 tons each, were built in Italy and shipped to Panama to be installed in the new locks. Eight years and $5.2 billion later, the expansion project is nearing completion. The initial stages of flooding the canals have begun and the projected opening date has been set for April of 2016. [29 photos total]

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1
Tugboats help a barge transporting the last rolling gate for the new locks on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal through the Miraflores locks in Panama City on December 10, 2014. (Rafael Ibarra / Reuters) #
2
A controlled explosion marks the beginning of the Panama Canal expansion project in Paraiso on the outskirts of Panama City on September 3, 2007. (Arnulfo Franco / AP) #
3
Land is cleared along the Atlantic coast for the construction of the Panama Canal's third lock in Panama City on January 27, 2010. (Alberto Lowe / Reuters) #
4
A dredge ship works on the expansion of the Panama Canal in Paraiso, Panama, on August 31, 2007. (Arnulfo Franco / AP) #
5
An U.P.C. (United For The Canal) worker looks at the excavation site for the construction of the third set of locks for the Panama Canal on August 27, 2010. (Alberto Lowe / Reuters) #
6
A ship arrives at the Miraflores locks as it crosses the Panama Canal at sunset on October 18, 2006. (Jose Gomez / Reuters) #
7
Workers dig an area where a new set of locks of the Panama Canal will be built in Cocoli, near Panama City on February 9, 2011. (Arnulfo Franco / AP) #
8
Cranes works an area where a new set of locks of the Panama Canal will be placed on December 21, 2011. (Arnulfo Franco / AP) #
9
Employees work in an area where a new set of locks for the Panama Canal are being built on August 13, 2012. (Arnulfo Franco / AP) #
10
The Panama Canal expansion project sits idle as a cruise ship navigates to the Gatun Locks in Gatun, Panama, on February 20, 2014. The canal expansion project was idle for days after work was halted over a disagreement with a contractor on cost overruns. (Arnulfo Franco / AP) #
11
Cranes works an area where a new set of locks of the Panama Canal will be built on August 13, 2012. (Arnulfo Franco / AP) #
12
A worker walks in front a wall of the Panama Canal expansion project on the Pacific side in Cocoli, Panama, on September 9, 2014. (Arnulfo Franco / AP) #
13
Part of the Panama Canal Expansion project, on the outskirts of Panama City, on August 8, 2014. (Rafael Ibarra / Reuters) #
14
Construction workers labor along a wall at the site of the Panama Canal's Atlantic expansion project in Gatun on January 11, 2014. (Arnulfo Franco / AP) #
15
Parked machinery sits at the construction site of the Panama Canal Expansion project on the outskirts of Colon City on February 12, 2014. (Carlos Jasso / Reuters) #
16
People take pictures as tugboats help a barge transporting the last rolling gate for the new locks on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal through the Miraflores locks in Panama City December 10, 2014. According to Panama Canal authorities, the Panama Canal's fourth set of locks has 16 rolling gates, eight for each new lock complex. (Rafael Ibarra / Reuters) #
17
Giant lock gates are stored along the waterway in Panama for a third channel in the Panama Canal, photographed on October 21, 2014. (Joe Kafka / AP) #
18
A worker walks at the Panama Canal expansion project site during an organized tour by the Panama Canal authorities on February 21, 2014. (Carlos Jasso / Reuters) #
19
Aerial view of work underway at the Panama Canal’s new Gatun Locks, next to the Atlantic Ocean, on March 23, 2015. (Rodrigo Arangua / AFP / Getty) #
20
The last gate of the Pacific Locks is being installed as part of the Panama Canal expansion, as the media is offered a tour, in Cocoli, near Panama City, on April 28, 2015. (Rodrigo Arangua / AFP / Getty) #
21
An aerial view shows the new Panama Canal expansion project, at left, including the existing Gatun Locks on the right, during a media tour organized by contractor Salini Impregilo, in Gatun, Panama, on March 23, 2015. (Arnulfo Franco / AP) #
22
Visitors take pictures during a tour organized by the Panama Canal to the expansion project in Panama City on May 17, 2015. (Carlos Jasso / Reuters) #
23
Visitors brave the rain during a tour organized by the Panama Canal to the expansion project in Panama City on May 17, 2015. (Carlos Jasso / Reuters) #
24
A photographer takes pictures at the Panama Canal expansion project site during an organized tour on February 21, 2014. (Carlos Jasso / Reuters) #
25
A Celebrity Infinity cruise ship is seen on the pacific side of the Panama Canal next to the Panama Canal Expansion project in Panama City on April 20, 2012. (Carlos Jasso / Stringer / Reuters) #
26
The head of the Panama Canal Authority, Jorge Quijano, opens the main valve to flood the Gatun flood chambers that will provide water to the new set of locks in the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal in Colon, Panama, on June 11, 2015. Water began flooding into an expanded section of the Panama Canal as engineers begin testing new locks. (Tito Herrera / AP) #
27
Water spills from pipes after the valves opened to start the flooding of the Panama Canal Expansion project on outskirts of Colon City on June 11, 2015. (Carlos Jasso / Reuters) #
28
Pipes flood the Panama Canal Expansion project on the outskirts of Panama City, on June 22, 2015. (Carlos Jasso / Reuters) #
29
Workers stand by a waterfall during the start of flooding of the Panama Canal Expansion project on outskirts of Colon City on June 11, 2015. Panama canal authorities opened the valves, marking the beginning of the process of flooding the new locks on the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal. The new project is currently scheduled to be complete and open to traffic in April of 2016. (Carlos Jasso / Reuters) #

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