PANAMA CITY, August 15 (RIA Novosti) – The Panama Canal, an artificial waterway connecting the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, will mark its 100th anniversary Friday.
The estimated total number of ships that have passed through the canal over its century of existence exceeds 1 million, the Panama Canal administration told RIA Novosti.
Spanish explorers first dreamt of the 48 mile-long passage after discovering the Isthmus of Panama in the 16th century. It was only 400 years later that the project became a reality in 1903, after Panama gained its independence from Columbia.
Construction of the canal started in 1904 and continued for more than 10 years. Some 50,000 workers from 30 countries helped make the project a reality. On August 15, 1914, the United States’ SS Ancon became the first ship to pass through the transit route. However, the canal only officially opened in June 1920.
The United States rented and managed the canal until 1999, when it was handed over to Panama. According to Bloomberg data, the canal handles 5 percent of global trade, with 14,000 vessels passing through its gates every year. According to the waterway’s website, in 2013 United States, China, Chile and Japan use the canal the most. An expansion program, designed to double the canal’s throughput, began in 2007 and is scheduled for completion by 2016.