Panama opens canal extension to boost trade

Updated: 00:00 GMT, Jan 1, 1970 | Published: 11:27 GMT, Jun 27, 2016 |

Panama opened the long-delayed expansion of its shipping canal on Sunday (June 26) with just a dozen of the 70 heads of state invited to see the debut of the third set of locks attending the ceremony.

Late in the morning, the Chinese container ship “Cosco Shipping Panama” left the Agua Clara lock on the Atlantic to begin the first crossing of the roughly 50-mile-long waterway and was due to emerge on the Pacific side in the evening.

“The Panama Canal, 102 years ago, connected two oceans. Today it connects the present and the future. It is an honor to announce what we together have done – an expanded canal. Thank you,” said Jorge Quijano, the administrator of the Panama Canal Authority.

Droves of people turned out for the ceremony waving flags and cheering.

Analysts said the rank of those leading the delegations that attended the ceremony was affected by the Panama Papers scandal, in which millions of documents were leaked from law firm Mossack Fonseca, revealing how some of the world’s richest people use offshore companies to avoid tax and launder money.

Panama’s foreign ministry said the event was a diplomatic success, with representatives from nearly all the invited countries in attendance, including from China, Japan, Peru, South Korea, Colombia and Mexico, as well as executives from top shipping firms and thousands of Panamanians.