Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Spanish Deputy Premier Manuel Chaves held a ceremony yesterday in Panama City celebrating the expansion of the Panama Canal—a massive infrastructure project to be completed in 2014. Also joined by the presidents of Guatemala, Colombia and Honduras, the ceremony marked the beginning of the construction for the canal’s expansion. "Today, a new future begins for the country,” said Martinelli.
The canal, first finished in 1904, is designed for ships with a 267-meter (875-feet) length and 28-meter (92-feet) beam, and is too small to handle modern ships, which commonly run three times as big. After a 2006 referendum approved its expansion, Grupo Unidos was awarded a 3.1 billion contract for the work.
The canal currently facilitates close to 5 percent of world trade and approximately 23 percent of commercial shipping traffic between Asia and the United States.