Frequently Asked Questions

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What is the length of the waterway?

The length of the Panama Canal is 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the deep waters of the Atlantic to the deep waters of the Pacific.

How long does it take for a complete transit?

A ship takes an average of 8 to 10 hours to transit the Panama Canal.

What is the size of Gatun Lake?

Lake Gatun covers an area of 163.38 square miles and was formed by the construction of an earthen dam across the Chagres River which runs northward toward the Caribbean Sea.

What is the length of Culebra or Gaillard Cut?

Culebra Cut is 13.7 kilometers long and extends from Gatun Lake to Pedro Miguel Locks.

When was Madden Dam built?

Construction of Madden Dam started in February 1932 and was completed in 1935.

Why is it called Madden Dam?

Madden Dam was named in honor of Martin B. Madden, member of the U.S. Appropriations Committee from Illinois.

When was Gatun Dam built?

Construction of Gatun Dam started in 1906 and was completed in 1910.

What is the horsepower in a towing locomotive?

New locomotives weigh 50 tons each and operate with two traction units of 290 HP each, compared to the 170 HP units of the previous locomotive model.

How much did the first "mules" cost, and what is their current cost?

The first mules or locomotives cost $13,217 and were built by General Electric, an American company. Mitsubishi, a Japanese company, is the current manufacturer of Panama Canal locomotives, which cost US$2.3 million each.

What is the size of each lock chamber?

Each chamber is 110 feet wide by 1,000 feet long.  The total volume of concrete used to build the locks was 3,440,488 cubic meters.

What is the size of each miter gate?

All gates are 65 feet wide by 7 feet deep. Their height, however, varies from 47 to 82 feet, depending on their location. Miraflores lock gates are the tallest, due to the variation in Pacific Ocean tides.  There are 46 gates, and their weight is of 353.8 to 662.2 tons.

How is a lock chamber filled?

To fill a chamber, the lower lock valves are closed and the upper valves are opened.  The water comes from Gatun Lake through long ducts, and enters the chamber through 20 holes in the chamber floor. To release the water from the locks, the upper valves are closed, and the lower valves are opened.

How long does it take to fill a lock chamber?

A Panama Canal lock chamber fills up in 8 minutes.

How much water is required to fill a lock chamber?

101,000 cubic meters of water are needed to fill a Panama Canal lock chamber.   An average of 52 million gallons of fresh water are used in each transit.

Where does the water that fills the lock chambers originate?

All water used in any lock chamber comes from Gatun Lake. This lake covers 163.38 square miles and was created when Gatun Dam was built. At one time, Gatun Lake was the largest artificial lake in the world.

How high above sea level is a vessel raised?

Ships are raised 85 feet over sea level.  This is the level of Gatun Lake.

How many tugboats does the Panama Canal have?

Tugboats assist ships during their transit through the Canal, mainly when entering and leaving the locks, and during their transit through Culebra Cut, where great maneuverability and power are required.

The current Panama Canal tugboat fleet totals 36 units.