Nothing so revolutionary in its effect on the global supply chain as the opening of the Panama Canal had happened since railroads replaced overland trails. The completion of the under budget and ahead-of-schedule Canal in 1914 was one of the greatest engineering feats in all of human history.
In our efficiency-obsessed world of today, we might forget that the Canal took 8,000 miles off the journey of a ship from New York to San Francisco!
Further, the Canal’s immediate and long-term effect has been one of great advantage to America’s seaboard communities by bringing them so much closer to each other and to the other countries of the world. If it weren’t for the Panama Canal, cities like Houston, Miami, San Diego, and Los Angeles may very well have remained small, inconsequential backwaters.
At present, a new set of locks is under construction, which will be able to handle the largest container ships currently afloat today, and others still yet to be designed. I was recently in Panama and spoke with several folks who are working on the Canal’s expansion, slated for completion at the 100th anniversary in 2014. It is a massive undertaking and appears right on-track, a testament to the leadership of the Panama Canal Authority.