The Expansion of the Panama Canal (Third Set of Locks Project)[1] is a project, proposed by the Panama Canal Authority (ACP), that will double the capacity of the Panama Canal by 2014. The expansion will be greater than at any time since the canal's construction. Then-Panamanian President Martín Torrijos presented the plan on April 24, 2006 and Panamanian citizens approved it in a national referendum by 76.8% of the vote on October 22, 2006. The project will double the canal's capacity and allow more traffic. It also will allow bigger ships.

The project will create a new lane of traffic along the Canal by constructing a new set of locks. Details of the project include the following integrated components:

  • Construction of two lock complexes—one on the Atlantic side and another on the Pacific side—each with three chambers, which include three water-saving basins;
  • Excavation of new access channels to the new locks and the widening of existing navigational channels; and,
  • Deepening of the navigation channels and the elevation of Gatun Lake's maximum operating level.[1]

As stipulated by the Panamanian Constitution, any project to expand the Canal had to be approved by the Cabinet, by the National Assembly and by a referendum.[2] On Friday, July 14, 2006, the National Assembly unanimously approved the proposal. In addition, the Assembly passed a law mandating a national referendum on the proposal. The Panama Canal expansion referendum was held on October 22, 2006, the first Sunday more than 90 days after National Assembly approval.[3]

On September 3, 2007 the Panama Canal expansion project officially started. Panama's then-president Martín Torrijos stated that the Canal will generate enough wealth to transform Panama into a First World country. The project is also expected to reduce poverty by about 30%, resulting in an 8% poverty rate in Panama afterwards.[citation needed]

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