Formally handed back to Panama at midnight on 31 December 1999, the Panama Canal's revenues now benefit the Panamanian economy-these days one of the strongest in Latin America.
Today around 14,000 ships (about 5% of world shipping) pass through the Canal's 80km each year, with a double lock at Miraflores on the Pacific side, and a single lock at Pedro Miguel, to reach Gatun Lake, the highest point, before the triple Gatun lock that connects to the Caribbean.
Work has begun on locks to accommodate even larger ships.
The story of the Canal is so vivid (see box), and the engineering feat so awesome, that a 'transit' through the Canal, or part of it, is a must for anyone.
Around the Canal
- Panama City
- National parks around the Canal
- Colon and Portobelo