The Panama Canal was originally constructed in the early 1900s.  It was built to offer a connection between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, particularly for international trade so that vessels did not need to tackle the long and treacherous route of Cape Horn at the southernmost tip of South America.

Today container ships are on a different scale to those in operation when the Panama Canal was originally constructed.  As such, a huge project (first started up in 2007) is underway to expand the capacity of the Panama Canal.  Vessels which use the Panama Canal are called Panamax, and generally are under 5000 TEU (20’ shipping container equivalent).  Currently only about 30% of sea freight transits are made by ‘Panamax vessels’.  The current largest vessels (or megaships) are around 18,000 TEU.  The expansion will accommodate 14,000 TEU capacity container ships.

Due to an increase demand for the connection of the West Coast of the USA and the West Coast of South America, larger container ships will be utilised to use the Panama Canal to connect this area to the rest of the world.

It is thought that the expansion project will be complete by April 2016.  Once complete we expect for the shipping carriers to create new routes and callings for their container ships.

If you have an export from the UK to go to Chile or Los Angeles, or even an import from Peru or San Francisco, then Mercator can handle the process for you.  The Panama Canal is still in use whilst expansion occurs.  Mercator has over 20 years’ of import and export experience, partner agents in most countries and contacts with sea freight carriers.  Appointing us to handle your shipping tasks could take a weight off your mind.  Get in contact with us by calling: +44 2392 756 575 or email


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