It has been called one of the seven wonders of the modern world and it has a pedigree to prove it… as far back as 1534 the idea of a canal was discussed among Spanish royalty but it wasn’t until 1880 when Ferdinand de Lesseps, of Suez Canal fame, together with Mr Eiffel tried to build the canal for France, unfortunately after being plagued with disease and mismanagement they filed for bankruptcy. Another French company, then bought the assets but their endeavour was short lived, by this time U$ 260 million had been lost.
The Americans, who were toying with the idea of building a canal in Nicaragua decided to pursue the French project and in 1902 work started to build the 82 km waterway that connects the Pacific and Atlantic oceans with a series of locks lifting ships 26 m to an artificial lake. By the time the canal was inaugurated in 1914 they had spent U$365 million.
All ships wanting to pass through the canal must pay a toll but more importantly must be captained by an independent specialist for the 12 hour journey through the locks, the alternative would take 14 days. Approximately 14000 ships pass through the canal every year generating approximately 1.8 billion in tolls generating 1/3 of Panama’s GDP.