Shipping through the Panama Canal

Before the Panama Canal was finished in 1914, ships had to go around Cape Horn to move their cargo between the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. Not only was this a much longer trip that added 50 percent more time to the trip, but navigating through the Magellan Straits were exceedingly dangerous and could cause worse problems for the ships. The Panama Canal is made up of a system of locks that lift the ships into a reservoir to bring it to the level of the water at the other side of the canal. This allowed for ships to move through without getting stuck. The canal was originally commissioned as a cut through for ships, but it is clear the founders had no idea just how much the shipping industry would grow and how this would become an important part of shipping and tourism even today. The Panama Canal gets ten to fifteen thousand ships through it every year and every ship pays a toll based on its size. This is a huge money maker for Panama who is now in control of the canal. The average toll is about $54,000 based on cubic feet available for cargo. The highest toll ever paid was a passenger ship called Disney Magic and the toll paid was $331,200. Unfortunately for Panama, in recent years there has been a drop in passage through the canal. The shipping industry is now growing in size including ship size and the pass through is based on ships built without today's technology. As a result, the locks are going to have a harder and harder time accommodating the large ships that are coming out now.