June 26, 2007—Cargo ships cross the Gatún Locks of the Panama Canal on October 21, 2006.
On October 22 Panamanians approved a 5.25-billion-U.S.-dollar project to modernize and expand the canal, doubling its capacity. Construction is slated to begin this August, and work is already under way to assess the ecological impacts of the expansion.
Built by the United States government in 1914, the canal currently handles almost 5 percent of global shipping trade. But cargo ships have grown in size and weight over the years, and many do not meet the size requirements for passing safely through the locks.
The project—the canal's largest facelift in its 93-year history—will add an extra shipping lane that can accommodate larger vessels.