Major Expansion Planned for Panama Canal

April 28, 2006
Royal Caribbean's 220,000-ton, 5,400-passenger Genesis prototype ... Panamax? Sounds crazy, but hear us out. The Panama Canal Authority has announced plans to build a second lane and a new set of locks that will double the capacity of the 50-mile Panama Canal, according to the Washington Post.

The new locks are expected to measure 1,400 feet long and 180 feet wide -- 40 percent longer and 64 percent wider than existing locks, according to Reuters. This means that ships currently designated as post-Panamax (a term used to describe ships that can't fit through the canal), such as Cunard's Queen Mary 2, Royal Caribbean's Voyager- and Freedom-class ships, and -- yes -- even Genesis, will one day be able to pass.

There are currently 21 cruise ships in operation classified as post-Panamax, with 17 more on order, reports Seatrade Insider. However, the $5.25 billion project (which will be paid for through a graduated toll system -- ships must pay to transit the canal) is primarily intended to accommodate growing cargo and oil tanker business.

The expansion is expected to be completed in 2014, exactly 100 years after the canal's original opening.