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The Panama Canal in facts and figures

August 15, 2014

The Panama Canal celebrates the 100th anniversary of its opening Friday, facing growing competition but still regarded as a crowning achievement of 20th-century engineering. Here are some key facts and figures about the engineering marvel:

Key dates:

1881-1888, 1894-1898: Construction begun under French leadership.

1904-1914: The United States continue and complete the canal.

1977: U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his Panamanian counterpart Omar Torrijos sign a treaty to cede U.S. control of the waterway to Panama.

December 13, 1999: Panama takes ownership of the canal.

January 2016: Target completion date for expansion project to triple the canal’s capacity.

Key figures:

-14,000 ships and 280 million tons of merchandise cross the canal annually.

-Five percent of world maritime traffic uses the Panama Canal.

-80 kilometers (50 miles): length of the canal.

-26 hours: time necessary to cross the canal, including wait times. Without wait, eight to 10 hours.

-26 meters (85 feet): the difference in altitude between the highest point of the canal and sea level.

-60 centimeters (23 inches): space separating the hull of a Panamax vessel — the largest the canal can currently accommodate — from the bank during passage through its narrowest locks.

-Key routes served by the canal: Asia — east coast of the United States; Europe — west coast of the United States and Canada; east coast of the United States — west coast of Latin America.

-Top users of the canal: United States and China.

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