The Panama Canal expansion project (also called the Third Set of Locks Project) is intended to double the capacity of the Panama Canal by 2015 by creating a new lane of traffic and allowing more and larger ships to transit.
The project is planned to:
- Build two new locks, one each on the Atlantic and Pacific sides. Each will have three chambers with water-saving basins.
- Excavate new channels to the new locks.
- Widen and deepen existing channels.
- Raise the maximum operating level of Gatun Lake.
Then-Panamanian President Martín Torrijos formally proposed the project on 24 April 2006, saying it would transform Panama into a First World country. A national referendum approved the proposal by a 76.8 percent majority on 22 October, and the Cabinet and National Assembly followed suit. The project formally began on 3 September 2007.
The project is expected to create demand for ports to handle New Panamax ships. Several U.S. Eastern Seaboard ports will be ready for these larger ships, and others are considering renovations, including dredging, blasting, and bridge raising. In the UK, the Port of Southampton can handle post-Panamax vessels and is expanding to accommodate more, while the Port of Liverpool will be capable by 2015 and others are considering such expansion.