Miraflores Visitors Center at the Miraflores Locks
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Being to Panama City, it is always worth to take some time to visit the Miraflores Locks of the Panama Canal, which are located close to the city, just a 20 minutes drive away from down town. The Panama Canal connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and was opened in 1914. Back then it was the second most important canal project, right after the Arabian Suez Canal, which was opened in 1869.
The construction started initially in 1881, executed by France. After 20 years the French decided to stop because of technical issues and hight mortality rate due to diseases. In 1904 the USA took over the project and completed it in about 10 years. Different to the French conception, the Americans planned to raise the sea level in the canal by using locks, so that digging had not to go too deep. This idea was a full success, today the operational concept is still the same. Therefore the Panama Canal consists of three watergates (the locks at Gatun, Pedro Miguel, and Miraflores), although the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean are on the same sea level.
In the 20th century the canal was operated by the USA, as the territory around it was owned by the USA also. Since end of 1999 the Canal is now fully owned and operated by Panama. The largest ship that can pass the canal is the Panamax Class. Currently larger locks are being added in parallel to be able to serve larger vessels in the future.
One nice occurence: During my visit to the Miraflores Locks a vessel of my hometown Hamburg passed the canal, the Hapag Lloyd owned Kiel Express with a size of 4626 TEU. It was enroute from Halifax via New York, Los Angeles to Nagoya, and had a stop in Manzanillo Bay the same day in the morning.