February 1, 2001
For most of the last century, the world's shipping industry depended on the Panama Canal. Today, the survival of that 20th-century engineering marvel is threatened by rapid air transport and the use of massive cargo ships too large to navigate its locks. By upgrading ports and container terminals, improving rail and air transport, and expanding duty-free zones, the Panamanian government and foreign investors hope to leverage the waterway as the centerpiece of a new trade center that will revitalize the Canal Zone and Panama's struggling port cities.
About 1,400 ships still transit the canal every year, 350 of which are cruise ships. The waterway transported 196 million tons of cargo in
Panama's geography has always been its best asset. Will its strategic location drive prosperity in the new millennium as Panama aims at becoming the Americas' premier trade zone?