During the 1800s, traders did not have an efficient or quick way to ship goods between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
The British proposed a canal through Nicaragua but they did not build it. The French attempted to build a canal through Panama but abandoned the project due to fatal diseases. But Americans, despite the failures of others, were undeterred.
In 1914, the U.S. began building a canal in Panama. A century later the Panama Canal has been expanded to double the capacity it can handle. On June 26, the Expanded Panama Canal, completed at a cost of $5.4 billion, was inaugurated allowing more vessels to pass through.
The Panama Canal is an important link to global trade, accepting an estimated five percent of the world’s total cargo volume. It takes a ship about 8-10 hours to make its way through the canal. The canal serves over 140 maritime trade routes to over 80 countries. American ships use the canal the most, followed by China, Chile, Japan, Columbia and South Korea. Every vessel must pay a toll based on its size and cargo volume. Tolls for the largest ships can run as high as $450,000.