The Panama Canal, one of man's greatest engineering and construction accomplishments, is about to get an assist in handling the world's shipping needs.
The "assist" will come in the form of a second canal, now under construction near the original waterway that connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans through one of the most narrow points in the Isthmus of Panama, according to Post Bulletin. Nearly a million ships from all nationalities have passed through the 50-mile stretch of the canal since it was completed by the US in 1914, despite the hardships of Yellow Fever and malaria outbreaks, floods, dense jungles and other ravages of nature.
While it was originally able to accommodate most of the world's cargo ships that hauled goods from one area of the globe to another in a short-cut route, the canal in the last decade or so has not been able to keep up with the increased flow of shipping and the proliferation of megaships.
These ships, mostly super-sized oil tankers going to the Far East from the Middle East and huge container ships going from one region to another, are unable to traverse the canal now because of their ever-growing size. And some new, giant cruise ships cannot go through the canal's locks either.
But all of that will change in a few years. The second canal located just a couple of miles from the original has been under construction since 2007 and is scheduled to be completed by 2014. It will be able to accommodate far larger ships than the original canal.
The year 2014 will be an epic date, since it will coincide with the 100th anniversary of the opening of the original canal. And the Republic of Panama, which took over the operation of the canal from the US on January 1, 2000, is reportedly planning a celebration second to none.