A game changer for modern trade

Before the construction of the Panama Canal in 1914, cargo ships had to take the treacherous path around Cape Horn, the southern tip of South America, adding thousands of miles and considerable cost to their journey.

Panama Canal expansion
With a unique location at the narrowest point between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Panama Canal provides a gateway for both East-West and North-South trade.
Tren Maersk Panama

Trein Mærsk passing through the Panama Canal in 1968. The sister ships Trein Maersk, Thomas Mærsk and Tobias Mærsk, which where delivered and put into the liner trade in 1962–63, achieved renown in shipping circles for their high speed and effective layout.

Adrian Maersk

Adrian Mærsk was the first Maersk vessel on a fully containerised route. Here in the Panama Canal on her maiden voyage in September 1975.

Maersk and the Panama Canal

  • Maersk’s maiden voyage through the canal was with Anna Maersk on June 19–23, 1917.
  • Maersk Line spent USD 80 million in 2015 on Panama Canal Fees (USD 450,000–350.000 transit per transit) and expect more than 400 transits in 2016.
  • Panama is the 5th largest hub globally for Maersk Line.
  • Despite the canal being increased in size, Maersk’s Triple E vessels still don’t fit through.

Bigger, better Panama Canal opens for business

Heads of state, regional business and community leaders gathered at the Panama Canal to celebrate the completion of the $5 billion expansion project that will improve the competitiveness of one of the world’s two most important short-cuts for trade.

For a vessel laden with bananas travelling from Ecuador to Europe, the distance saved using the canal is about 8,000 kilometres (Source: Panama Canal Authority). But for many agricultural goods, going another way is not even an option – the extra time it would take means the cargo would go bad before arrival. As such, the canal is uniquely important for modern trade.

A decade ago, however, the Panama Canal Authority was faced with the possibility that a large proportion of global trade would bypass the canal entirely, with serious consequences for the continued economic development of the entire region.

Poster image
Training of young candidates on board Anders Mærsk going from New York to the Far East through the Panama Canal 1979. 0:33
Changing trade patterns

Channeling trade in Panama

As the gateway for more than 12,000 ships, carrying roughly five per cent of all world sea trade, the canal is one of Panama’s most important assets. The expansion of the canal will benefit not only shipping companies, but also customers and world trade in general.

Changing trade patterns

Changing trade patterns

The new Panama Canal locks reshape world shipping – accommodating ships which can take almost three times the load of current vessels. It promises to lower the costs of North-South trade.


Latin America Trade Reports

Our trade reports provide an overview of trade in Latin America. The reports are available both in English and Spanish.

The problem was plain to see: The new generations of container ships were too large to pass through the canal. This is why the Panamanian government in 2007 initiated an expansion of one of the key channels with the active support of private companies.

Double the capacity
The expansion of the Panama Canal will double the waterway’s capacity and allow the passage of larger vessels, from the so-called Panamax vessels that carry up to 5,000 TEU to the Post Panamax vessels, 49 meters (160 feet) wide, 366 meters (1,200 feet) long and 15 meters (50 feet) deep and with a capacity of up to 14.000 TEU.

The expansion has cost more than USD 5 billion and has created more than 30,000 jobs since its construction started back in 2007. And now, when ready to use, it represents a huge opportunity for the region’s countries to enhance their coastal and hinterland infrastructure and to unlock economic growth in the region.