Panama Canal Facts

The Panama Canal was built to shorten the distances ships needed to travel to deliver the cargo they were carrying onboard between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.

It is a 48-mile waterway that crossed the Isthmus of Panama. The French began to build the canal back in 1881. The construction stopped and began again in 1904 when the United States took on this project.

The canal was completed after 10 years of hard work and officially opened on the 15th of August in 1914. The Panama Canal is still used today and is seen as an important part of international trading.

The canal works by using three pairs of locks at each end, these locks are used for lifting and lowering the ships onto different water levels.

The locks are similar to water-filled chambers that help move the boats. New locks were added in 2016 so that larger ships were able to pass through the canal.

This industrial creation has saved ships a journey of 10 000 miles!

Panama Canal Facts for Kids

  • The first ship to ever pass through the Panama Canal was the SS Ancon, an American steamship.
  • Each year an average of 15 000 ships use the Panama Canal to transport their cargo.
  • The travel time through the Panama Canal is between 8-10 hours.
  • The Panama Canal is a politically neutral zone – the Torrijos-Carter treaty in 1977 has allowed for this service to be provided to all nations around the world.
  • The Panama Canal idea was thought of originally by King Charles V of Spain in the early 1500s. The French then attempted to build it and it was completed by America.
  • The cost of building the bridge is estimated to be around US $400 million.
  • A dam called the Madden Dam helps to provide water for the canal and it was built in 1930.
  • The average toll for passing through the canal is US $50 000. The most expensive toll paid was by the Norwegian Pearl cruise liner, it was $375,600!
  • An American adventurer, Richard Halliburton, swam the length of the Panama Canal back in 1928. They calculated his toll according to his weight!
  • The Panama Canal is still too narrow to allow some ships through and it is estimated that the canal misses out on 30% of the cargo transport share because it is still too narrow.
  • 20,000 people are believed to have died during the construction of the canal from various diseases.
  • This was a huge engineering project and one that stands out in history with an estimated 40,000 people involved in the construction.



Question: Which two oceans does the Panama Canal connect?
Answer: The Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean

Question: What is the length of the canal?
Answer: 48 miles

Question: How long did it take to build the Panama Canal?
Answer: 10 Years

Question: Can any boats fit through the canal?
Answer: It is estimated that the canal misses out on 30% of the cargo transport

Question: What was the name of the treaty that allows the service to be used by all nations?
Answer: The Torrijos-Carter treaty