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.
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
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
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