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Panama referendum approves Canal plan

Panama referendum approves Canal plan

President Martin Torrijos welcomed the backing for the plan which, it is hoped, will double the Canal’s capacity. “Never in the history of the country have we Panamanians taken a decision of this magnitude. We have laid the foundation for a better country,” he said. Voter turnout was a relatively low 40%.

Work on the expansion is due to start in 2008 and the project should be completed by 2014, 100 years after the Canal was first opened. Around 14,000 ships a year pass through it, representing 5% of all shipping worldwide. However, the 50-mile canal is not wide enough for the latest generation of container vessels, and in recent years congestion has meant increasing delays.