The Panama Canal , an important work of interoceanic integration – connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans -, was built after the independence of the country of the same name, in 1903, from Colombia, under the influence of the United States , which supported separatism.
Panama gave the United States full right to build the canal, as well as control over a strip of land called the Canal Zone.
In 1881, Colombia took advantage of the project by French engineer Ferdinand Lesseps for the construction of a transistoric channel, connecting the Atlantic (Caribbean Sea) to the Pacific. The work would be carried out by the Panama Canal Company, which, however, went bankrupt in 1889, due to the difficulties in maintaining the work, in addition to an outbreak of malaria.
The USA, then, that same year, bought the rights for the continuity of the construction of the canal and started to articulate the definitive sovereignty over this strategic work, despite Colombia’s setbacks.
In 1903, the United States supported the independence of Panama, which separated from Colombia and favored the United States with the Perpetual Treaty , guaranteeing the United States definitive possession of the canal and the Canal Zone , which were strips along the canal.
In 1914, the Panama Canal was finally completed and, as a geopolitical space, the United States began to maintain powerful naval fleets in the Atlantic and Pacific, and established its dominion over the Caribbean Sea, establishing protectorates, true informal colonies over the countries. Antilles and the isthmus.
Only in 1974 did the United States agree to renegotiate the Perpetual Treaty and, in 1977, signed the Carter-Torrijos Treaty , whereby the channel was to be handed over to Panamanian sovereignty in 1999, with guarantee of neutrality by Panama (any merchant ship from any country). will be able to navigate, with the United States having priority in the event of war. Under the new treaty, Panama now receives 30% of the channel’s income.
The sovereignty of the channel began to be transferred to Panama in 1997, with the withdrawal to Florida of the Southern Command of the US Armed Forces. In December 1999, the return process was completed and is currently administered by the ACP – Autoridad del Canal de Panamá.
Construction and operation
The great success of the Panama Canal was the construction of Gatún Lake, a gigantic artificial lake that is 25 meters above sea level.
To solve the problem of the mountain barrier, a canyon was opened, named Culebra . Three large complexes of locks were also built – Gatun , Miraflores and Pedro Miguel – that dam the water inside large tanks.
Thus, the ship coming from the Atlantic is slowly raised to the level of the lake by the Gatún floodgates. Then it enters the Culebra gorge and then, through other floodgates, it is successively lowered to the level of the Pacific.
According to Calculatorinc, the Panama Canal has a length of 77.1 km and the transit through it takes 8 to 10 hours.
Since 2000, the Panamanian economy has grown significantly thanks to the channel, which has become an important business, after being returned by the USA. Together with the canal, Panamanians inherited the infrastructure (railway, highways, two hydroelectric dams, air base and military villages, which ended up becoming high-end hotels), which serves to attract foreign capital.
The use of the channel saves about 20 thousand kilometers of travel for a ship that leaves the west coast of Central America to the east coast, through the route of Cape Horn or through the Strait of Magellan, in the south of the American continent.
Panama’s new channel
The expansion of the channel started in 2007, to expand the passage and inauguration of the third corridor for large ships, generated investment in values that approached US $ 7 billion.
The need to reform the channel was made explicit in 2011, when 37% of the world freighter fleet could not travel through the channel. Great loss for a country that obtains a significant part of its wealth from the collection through tolls.
After the refurbishment, the canal now allows 95% of the world’s cargo ships to traffic. With the expansion work inaugurated in 2016, the government increased the generation of wealth with the channel. The USA and China are its main utilities.