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The Panama Canal - from Yesterday to Tomorrow

In: Business and Management

Submitted By rickmo
Words 2013
Pages 9
The Panama Canal: From Yesterday to Tomorrow

By

Clarence Moore

North Lake College

Introduction to Business Logistics

LGMT-1319-73471

Professor Jeffrey Wendt

April 2013

When the first European, Rodrigo de Bastidas, reached Panama in 1501, he could hardly envision the magnitude of the Isthmus’ future. As more Spanish caravels arrived, the search for gold was intensified. A shortened route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean was not found by Magellan, who conceived of going around Cape Horn or passing through the Straits that were to bear his name. When sea routes were found to be to long the Spaniards turned to overland crossings, and when Vasco Nunez de Balboa first crossed the Isthmus of Panama in 1513, he initiated a ceaseless march of traffic. Panamanians are still proud of the curious Balboa who discovered the Pacific, surveyed the Panama route across the Central America Isthmus and found that there existed a difference in the levels of the respective oceans. The Conquistador Herman Cortes was certain that no natural waterway existed between the Atlantic and the Pacific, and he expressed a desire to construct a sea passageway through Panama, Darien, Nicaragua, or Tehmantepec. The dreams of the foresighted Cortes went for naught as it was almost three centuries before serious consideration was again given to the construction of an interocean waterway (Liss). From the beginning of the sixteenth century until the beginning of the nineteenth century while Spain maintained control over its vast empire in the Western Hemisphere, no one was allowed to build a canal, or even a road wide enough for an ox-drawn cart to pass across the Isthmus of Panama. This did not stop people from talking or dreaming about it however. One of the most famous scientists of the time, Alexander von Humboldt of Prussia, wrote about building a canal to join the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. From 1799 to 1804, Humboldt roamed South and Central America under a most unusual passport granted him by Charles IV, the King of Spain. He was allowed to inspect whatever he wanted. Just before he returned to Europe, Humboldt spent three weeks as a guest of President Thomas Jefferson of the United States. Jefferson must have been amazed at the vast knowledge of geography that Humboldt had amassed during his travels. In a book, Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain, published in 1811, Humboldt discussed the most likely route for an interocean canal. He thought that a sale across Nicaragua was the best route. In fact, Humboldt thought that a canal across Panama was, because of physical obstacles, the worst possible choice. Humboldt’s book influenced many of the leading thinkers of his day. Soon after the publication of Humboldt’s book, the old, decaying Spanish empire crumbled. It had run short of money and faced rebellions in many of its colonies. By 1825, Spain no longer controlled any provinces in Central or South America. What are now Panama and Columbia then formed a country called New Granada, whose capital was Bogota’, now the capital of Colombia. A little more than twenty years later, the attention of the United States and the rest of the world returned to the narrow Isthmus of Panama and its short overland journey between the oceans (Gaines). The Panama Canal is an international waterway that stretches up to 50 miles connecting two large water bodies namely the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. The record of Panama Canal dates back in the 16th century. The waterway has since simplified the passage of ships between these two water bodies cutting across the Isthmus of Panama. Since 1819, the Panama Canal has been a property of Colombia until 1903. The United States of America successfully conducted the construction of the canal between 1904 and 1914 as a result of gold discovered in California in 1848. The construction of the canal was important to reduce time and distance traveled between the Pacific and the Atlantic. The initial inhabitants of the canal were Indians and U.S citizens. History states that, in 1869, the French government had attempted to construct the canal after the Suez Canal’s construction was completed; that inspired them but failed. The French had first undertaken a project to create the Suez Canal; a project that was successfully completed without much struggle. This motivated the French to rush into starting the construction of the Panama Canal. This canal was not as easy as Suez Canal because the French did not have appropriate procedures and equipment. Hence, France wasted millions of dollars, and still failed due to factors beyond their control. Before the Canal was built, ships use to travel double the distance through Cape Horn. This was the largest engineering project to be undertaken and successfully completed despite the failure by the French. In present day, the canal plays the role of a commercial venture as well as a link in world shipping. (DuTemple). The French failure to construct the canal was based on several challenges. The French had a faulty project that did not take care of basic issues such as the rivers that flooded the canal that would turn constructions difficult. In this project, the French engineers overestimated the time taken to complete as eight years as opposed to ten years for the Suez Canal. At the end of the ten years, completion was not in sight, and in fact, abandonment was the decision being considered. Accidents and infirmities exemplified by malaria, as well as yellow fever, claimed approximately 20,000 lives of canal builders. The diseases were rampart because the canal runs through the Panamanian jungle that is infested with dangerous insects like mosquitoes (DuTemple).
Impacts on Labor Force The role the mosquitoes played in transmitting malaria was not known by then hence high deaths rate recorded. This was the most serious challenge that made the French quit the project. The mosquito elimination project included identifying and separating patients suffering from different diseases. Burning of sulphur and pyrethrum proved to be effective in eradicating mosquitoes. In addition, the French did not have the right equipment for the heavy-duty job, as the area is volcanic in nature having been constituted of rocky surfaces. The attempt by the French started in the year 1882 with 20,000 men at work and ended in 1892. In 1892 France hired another company to undertake the project but still failed although the second company had good strategies that assisted the U.S. in completing the task. Consequently, the French endeavors went bankrupt as a result of loss of experienced people; thus, abandoning the project immediately after nine years of work. Other contributors of failure include mismanagement of funds and political fraud. Surprisingly, the work completed assisted Americans in completing the task despite the fact that America had an upper hand due to the advancement of technology (Haskin 4). The Expansion
In 2006, the Panamanians approved the Canal’s expansion program, the most ambitious project ever developed in water since it’s opening in 1914. The Panama Canal was officially opened on the 15th of August 1914. Years of very hard work ended in this marvel of engineering linking the two great oceans, Atlantic and Pacific. It has been a great infrastructure that has become one of international trade’s favorite routes and has helped towards financial development by shortening sea communication distances and times. With over 50 miles in length from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, the Canal has had 943,042 transits since it’s opening. It has been a navigation route that has undergone many design improvements to accomplish the required levels of excellence. With this aim, the Panama Canal Authority, an independent entity that operates and manages the Canal, continuously works in the permanent process of its modernization. With the arrival of the 21st Century and to respond to future traffic demands and guarantee its competitiveness as a preferred sea route, the Canal’s Authority developed a master plan that was presented in form of a proposal in 2006. Approved by referendum with an absolute majority of Panamanians, the Extension Project is the most important engineering effort that has taken place in the Canal since it was first built, over a century ago ((Maxam – Civil Explosives) Ever since its completion, the canal has seen as increase in ship traffic from 1,000 to 14,000 in 2008, and approximately 825,000 ships have traveled the canal. Civil engineers of the American society have termed it as one of the wonders of the present world. Although the Panama holds an economic advantage, it has a major disadvantage; large ships such as military battle ships, large oil tankers and aircraft carriers cannot pass through the canal due its limited size. Fortunately, a 5.2 billion dollar project is underway to be completed in 2014 that aims at expanding the Panama Canal to accommodate much larger ships (Jeong Crittenden and Xu 4). Impact of the Expansion The expansion of the Panama Canal will be complete by 2014. A new third lane will double the canal’s capacity. It will accommodate Post-Panamax ships, which are 1,200 feet in length and carry three times the cargo of 965- feet-long Panamax ships. (Source: USA Today “Super-size container ships require larger locks, “ August 5, 2009) Five ports carry 70% of U.S. ship imports: Los Angeles/ Long Beach (LA/LB), New York/New Jersey (NY/NJ), Seattle/Tacoma, Savannah, and Oakland. All of these, and the port of Charleston, either already can or will be able to receive Post-Panamax ships by 201. Traffic is extended to double to these ports by 2030. Expansion of the Panama Canal will help relieve the congestion to the U.S. transportation system by relieving congestion to the LA/LB port, which receives most of the traffic from Asia ( Amadeo)
Main Reason For The Canal The purpose of expanding the Panama Canal is to preserve and uphold competitiveness of the canal, maintain the importance of the Canal course by making superior benefits for the vast population of Panama. Another objective of expanding the canal is to boost its potential to meet the increasing requirements for transit while working at maximum levels of productivity possible. The key aim in consideration is the ability to allow large ships to transit through the canal, as this would enhance the canal output. Maintenance tasks on the ships and other water vessels require adequate space, so that relevant servicing services can be performed. The expansion of the canal would increase room for these tasks and eliminating congestion of ships. The Canal has provoked economic advancement for Panamanians. Income from agriculture and fishing practiced in the surrounding areas has contributed up to 7% of Gross Domestic Product of Panamanian economy. Additionally, 120,000 express and non-express jobs have been created in different sectors. Such sectors include the tourism industry, field of agriculture, fishing and processing industries constructed (Mann).
Summary
There has been a tremendous price paid for what some has referred to as one of the greatest marvels and works in the world. Due to the advancement of technology across a broad spectrum of industries to include, construction, engineering, computers, and medicine, the expansion of and building of the third locks will continue to advance the movement of goods and services across oceans and countries for another hundred years. I believe the Panamanian people will continue to prosper and be proud of what the expansion will bring to the further growth and development of Panama.
References

Amadeo, Kimberly. Panama Canal Expansion Impact on U.S. Economy. About.com. (Source: USDA Panama Canal Study). Web. 20 March 2011

DuTemple, Lesley A. The Panama Canal (Great Building Feats). Lerner Pub Group. September 2002

Gaines, Ann Graham. The Panama Canal (In American History). Enslow Publishers. February 1999.

Liss, Sheldon B. The Canal: Aspects of United States Panamanian Relations. University of Notre Dame Press, 1st Edition. 1967

Mann, Elizabeth. The Panama Canal: The Story of how a jungle was conquered and the world made smaller. Mikaya Press. 1998.

Maxam – Civil Explosives. Case Studies. Web.

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