ACP Overview

ACP LogoThe Panama Canal Authority (ACP) is the entity of the Government of Panama established under Title XIV of the National Constitution with exclusive charge of the operation, administration, management, preservation, maintenance, and modernization of the Canal, as well as its activities and related services, pursuant to legal and constitutional regulations in force, so that the Canal may operate in a safe, continuous, efficient, and profitable manner.

Organic Law of June 11, 1997, furnishes the ACP with legislation for its organization and operation. Because of its importance and uniqueness, the ACP is financially autonomous, has its own patrimony, and the right to administer it.

An Administrator and a Deputy Administrator head the ACP under the supervision of an 11-member Board of Directors. The Administrator is the highest-ranking executive officer and legal representative of the Authority, and is responsible for its administration and the implementation of the policies and decisions of the Board of Directors. The Administrator is appointed for a seven-year term, and may be re-elected for an additional term.

The appointment of the 11 members of the Board of Directors is made as follows:

  • Nine directors are appointed by the President of the Republic of Panama with the consent of the Cabinet Council and ratification by an absolute majority of the members of the Legislative Assembly.
  • One director is designated by the Legislative Branch, and may be freely appointed or removed thereby.
  • The President of the Republic designates one director, who shall chair the Board of Directors and have the rank of Minister of State for Canal Affairs. The Canal Affairs Minister attends Cabinet Council meetings, having the right to voice and vote.

The members of the first Board of Directors were appointed for overlapping terms to ensure their independence from the country’s administrations. The Panama Canal constitutes an inalienable patrimony of the Republic of Panama; therefore, it may not be sold, assigned, mortgaged, or otherwise encumbered or transferred. The legal framework of the Panama Canal Authority has the fundamental objective of preserving the conditions for the Canal to always remain an enterprise for the peaceful and uninterrupted service of the maritime community, international trade, and the Republic of Panama.

This is the Canal

The Panama Canal is approximately 80 kilometers long between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. This waterway was cut through one of narrowest saddles of the isthmus that joins North and South America.

The Canal uses a system of locks -compartments with entrance and exit gates. The locks function as water lifts: they raise ships from sea level (the Pacific or the Atlantic) to the level of Gatun Lake (26 meters above sea level); ships then sail the channel through the Continental Divide.

Each set of locks bears the name of the townsite where it was built: Gatun (on the Atlantic side), and Pedro Miguel and Miraflores (on the Pacific side).

The lock chambers -steps– are 33.53 meters wide by 304.8 meters long. The maximum dimensions of ships that can transit the Canal are: 32.3 meters in beam; draft -their depth reach- 12 meters in Tropical Fresh Water; and 294.1 meters long (depending on the type of ship).

The water used to raise and lower vessels in each set of locks comes from Gatun Lake by gravity; it comes into the locks through a system of main culverts that extend under the lock chambers from the sidewalls and the center wall.

The narrowest portion of the Canal is Culebra Cut, which extends from the north end of Pedro Miguel Locks to the south edge of Gatun Lake at Gamboa. This segment, approximately 13.7 kilometers long, is carved through the rock and shale of the Continental Divide.

Ships from all parts of the world transit daily through the Panama Canal. Some 13 to 14 thousand vessels use the Canal every year. The Panama Canal serves more than 144 maritime routes connecting 160 countries and reaching some 1,700 ports in the world.

The Canal has a work force of approximately 10 thousand employees and operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, providing transit service to vessels of all nations without discrimination.

Updated: 22-Feb-2013

The Canal Expansion Program Description

The program consists in the construction of two new sets of locks – one on the Pacific and one on the Atlantic side of the Canal. Each lock will have three chambers and each chamber will have three water reutilization basins.

The program also entails the widening and deepening of existing navigational channels in Gatun Lake and the deepening of Culebra Cut.

In order to open a new 6.1 km-long access channel to connect the Pacific locks and the Culebra Cut, four dry excavation projects will be executed.

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