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.
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.
Ships from all parts of the world transit
daily through the Panama Canal. Some 13 to 14 thousand vessels use the Canal every year. In fact, commercial transportation
activities through the Canal represent approximately 5% of the world trade.The Canal has a work force of approximately 9 thousand employees and operates 24 hours a
day, 365 days a year, providing transit service to vessels of all nations without discrimination.