The Panama Canal is one of the most important inland waterways of the world, linking the Atlantic with the Pacific across the Central American isthmus.
The canal is approximately 80 kilometres long. It begins in the city of Colon on Panama's northern coast and ends near Panama City toward the Pacific in the south.
The expanded canal has three lock systems, which raise the ships 28 metres from sea level to Lake Gatun at the centre of the canal, and lowers them again on the other side.
The 5.25 billion dollar canal expansion project was necessary because of an increase in size of recently built ships that became too large to transit the canal's existing locks. In the future, huge post-Panamax class tankers and freighters carrying up to 14,000 containers will be able to transit the canal's locks.
Around 14,000 ships transit the Panama Canal each year, comprising roughly 6 per cent of global trade.