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Published on Oct 16, 2007
February 2007 Within five years, half the world's container fleets will be too big to fit through the Panama Canal. Can Panama afford the multi-billion dollar expansion costs? Who will benefit from expanding the Canal?
Captain Blackwood's ship barely fits through the Panama canal. "We have approximately 2 feet on either side", he states. As container fleets become larger, Blackwood's job is becoming harder. The Panama Canal is one of the most important shipping routes in the world: an unprecedented engineering achievement which cuts journey times by 5,000 km. But to remain competitive, the waterway needs to expand. "We don't have capacity to handle all the ships that are coming our way", laments Alberto Aleman, CEO, Panama Canal Authority. Ships often have to queue for days. The locks were designed in another era for much smaller ships. Panama recently approved a $6bn expansion project but many question who will benefit from it. "This a country where the institutions work for the minorities", complains Prof Bernal. He believes the project will run over budget, won't supply the jobs promised and won't help Panama's needy. According to Bernal, one person who will benefit is the CEO of the Panama Canal Authority. His family owns the construction company vying for work on the expansion.
Produced by ABC Australia Distributed by Journeyman Pictures