This Is How the Panama Canal Works

It works through a complex system involving tugboats.

If the video player is not working, you can click on this alternative video link.

Every year, about 14,600 ships pass through the Panama Canal, one of the most important waterways on Earth as it brings the United States closer to both Europe and Asia by connecting the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic. The canal works through a complex system involving tugboats.

When a ship wants to enter the canal, it approaches the waterway from the sea. At this point, several tugboats attach a towline to the incoming ship and move it into alignment with the canal locks’ narrow entrance. Once a cargo ship is firmly within a lock, a tugboat stays behind to make sure it does not displace itself. 

Then, the lock gate behind it closes while the gate ahead gradually opens. This causes water to displace, raising the ship so it can then enter the next lock, where it will eventually join Gatun Lake. 

Advertisement

The ships then pass through Gatun Lake and head toward a different but similar set of locks on the other side, where the process is repeated. The whole process takes about 11 hours.

Is your curiosity piqued? Do you want to find out more about the engineering behind this great waterway? Then, do not miss our video.

Follow Us on

Stay on top of the latest engineering news

Just enter your email and we’ll take care of the rest:

By subscribing, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. You may unsubscribe at any time.