Last updated: 02:30 PM ET, Tue June 28 2016

Panama Canal Celebrates Opening of $7.45 Billion Expansion

Destination & Tourism | Donald Wood | June 28, 2016

Panama Canal Celebrates Opening of $7.45 Billion Expansion

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

On Monday, thousands of spectators gathered at the Panama Canal to celebrate the opening of a $7.45 billion expansion to the facility.

According to the Agence France-Presse, the spectators watched as the Chinese-chartered freighter COSCO Shipping Panama made its way through the 80 kilometer waterway that links the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The passage of the COSCO Shipping Panama ship showcased the expansion, which included the addition of a third shipping lane, as well as new locks catering to vessels of its class, known as Neopanamax ships.

The massive ship stopped in the final lock before making its way into the Pacific Ocean where spectators celebrated the opening of the expanded Panama Canal. Those in attendance—including Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet—were treated to a fireworks display and live entertainment to commemorate the moment.

READ MORE: How Ecotourism is Changing Panama (For the Better)

The work on the expanded canal began in 2007, but ended up being finished two years later than expected and well over the originally proposed budget. The project was marred by labor disputes and friction between the Panama government and the European companies that carried out the project.

Instead of focusing on the negatives, the celebration of the Panama Canal expansion heralds the structure’s ability to accommodate 98 percent of ships sailing today. The canal now allows travel for Neopanamax freighters and cruise ships built to the same dimensions.

The long-term goal for the Panama Canal is to triple the $1 billion in revenue it currently gets from shipping fees.

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