Simply put, the expansion is adding a new lane of traffic to the existing canal.

When will the widened Canal be fully operational?
“Simply put, the expansion is adding a new lane of traffic to the existing canal. This new lane will have locks that are much wider than the canal’s current locks, which have existed for nearly 100 years. The new locks will allow our customers to transit larger vessels and greater tonnage. We expect the expansion of the canal to be completed in 2014 and be fully operational in 2015.”

What impact will the new lane have on the shipping industry?
“The expanded canal will be able to accommodate post-Panamax vessels, which will increase capacity, reduce wait times, and provide fuel-cost savings to our customers. The expansion is expected to double the canal’s capacity to more than 600 million Panama Canal tonnes.”

Is the construction on schedule?
“So far, contracts worth over US$4 billion of the estimated total of US$5.25 billion have been awarded, including one to build the new set of locks at the Pacific and Atlantic ends of the canal. Dredging of the Pacific and Atlantic entrances to the canal is more than 50% complete and substantial progress has been made on the dry excavation to create the new access channel. I am proud that the expansion programme is on track and on budget.”

Why did the ACP increase toll charges in January 2011?
“Periodically, the canal changes its pricing structures, increases toll prices and provides new services to its customers. Since Panama started operating the canal in 1999, we have treated it as a business. In April 2010, the ACP Board of Directors approved a proposal to modify the canal’s pricing structure, including an increase in tolls. The ACP listened to the industry and agreed to a gradual implementation of the increase.”

How will rates change when the new lane is opened?
“The pricing of the canal is based on the value of the service and offerings the canal provides to its customers. We have not identified future toll structures but, like any business, the price will reflect the value we provide and the demand for our services. I expect that this historic project will have substantial benefits for global shipping, the people of Panama and our customers.”