They came from every province of Panama and from across the globe to witness history: the beginning of the historic expansion of the Panama Canal. The crowd, totaling an estimated 30,000, included world leaders in business and government. They joined employees of the Panamanian government and the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) in a ceremony and groundbreaking to celebrate the beginning of the first-ever expansion of the nearly 100-year-old waterway.

Expansion will build a new lane of traffic along the Panama Canal through the construction of a new set of locks, which will double capacity and allow more traffic and longer, wider ships. Today's event inaugurates the first construction project of expansion: a dry excavation project on Paraiso Hill that begins the construction of the new Pacific Locks access channel. The new Pacific Locks access channel will ultimately connect the Gaillard Cut to the new Pacific Locks.

"It's a historic day. Expansion will have a significant role in world trade and the maritime industry. This project brings a true sense of pride and a real sense of responsibility. We are ready to meet the demands ahead and, truly, the best is yet to come," said ACP Board of Directors Chairman and Minister for Canal Affairs Dani Ariel Kuzniecky. "We are grateful for the tremendous support of this project and we are honored by the presence of government officials from around the world, particularly former U.S. President Jimmy Carter."

In a national referendum October 22, 2006, Panamanians voted to expand the Canal, a momentous step that will ultimately secure their future and that of world trade. Expansion will double Canal capacity to more than 600 million Panama Canal tons, tighten the global supply chain and help get goods to market faster. After scores of analyses, studies and planning, expansion begins today.

"We have researched and planned this project for years; we have the approval of the Panamanian people. As we stand here today, our vision and perseverance have paid off. Now, it is time to execute. Now it is time to begin the expansion of the Panama Canal," said ACP Administrator/CEO Alberto Alemán Zubieta. "It is truly an honor to lead this great organization. We all know about those who risked so much and tried so hard to build the Canal more than 100 years ago. As we dig, as we build, as we expand the Canal, we will be thinking of those pioneers while also looking to the future. A future that is bright for the Canal and world trade. A future that is bright for Panama - a country that is becoming the transportation and logistics hub of the Americas."

The Panama Canal services more than 144 different transportation routes from every corner of the globe, connecting major trading arteries and providing safe, time-saving and secure passage for all vessels. The expanded Canal will serve as a critical link to world commerce.

For broadcast quality b-roll and photos of today's event, please visit

About the Panama Canal Authority
The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) is the autonomous agency of the Government of Panama in charge of managing, operating and maintaining the Panama Canal. The operation of the ACP is based on its organic law and the regulations approved by its Board of Directors. For more information, please refer to the ACP's Web site:

The Authority's responsibility to the Panamanian people is paramount. The Canal belongs to the people and benefits from the Canal should accrue to as many Panamanians as possible. The Authority will plan its future so that it will continually contribute to the economic development and welfare of the citizens of Panama.