How does the Panama Canal work?

The Panama Canal has narrowed the means of international trade. It has been the protagonist in simplifying the transport of products and tools between the continents. Its importance has led it to become a matter of international interest, so it’s important that you know how it works.

In this article, we will tell you what details you must understand to know how the Panama Canal works and how, without knowing it, we all benefit from its existence.

General information you should know about the Panama Canal

The Panama Canal is considered one of the most important engineering works of the 20th century. Its design is ingenious and particular and also represents a before and after for international trade. This Canal crosses Panama through the narrowest part of its geography on the Central Mountain Range.

Between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, it is about 80 kilometers long and has a depth of 12.8 meters on the Atlantic Ocean and 13.7 meters on the Pacific Oceanside. Finally, the width of the Canal is 91 to 300 meters (don’t worry! It’s enough for giant boats).

If you are not willing to go down to Cape Horn to complete your journey, going through the Panama Canal will make it easier for you to cross the oceans and will decrease your sailing time significantly.

Now, let’s get to the point. How do ships get through the entire Canal and, what makes the magic happen?

What’s the mechanics behind the canal?

esclusas del canal de panamá

To understand how the channel works, you should know that its structure is quite advanced and has different complex mechanisms that guarantee the safety of the boats.

For the Panama Canal to do its job, the engineers designed an artificial lake with locks that operate at different levels. This lake is called Gatun Lake and is 26 meters above sea level, so the ships must «climb» up to the locks to be able to successfully cross the entire route.

When entering the canal, the ships must go through the locks of Gatun Lake, but as they advance through the narrowest part of the Canal, they encounter the Pedro Miguel and Miraflores locks. This last mechanism is the one that allows the ship to enter to the other Ocean.

However, it is in the airlocks that the best part happens. The design of the mechanism allows the water to be leveled according to the ship’s needs, so inside the locks the water rises and falls to allow the ship to continue its route without any damage or delay.

You’re ready to sail!

Now that you know how the Panama Canal works, you are ready to find your transit agent in Panama and see for yourself this incredible work of engineering at the disposal of international trade.

We’re here to help you!

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