Former President Theodore Roosevelt’s Panama Canal was enlarged and officially inaugurated Sunday.
The enlargement cost $5.4 billion in what was an almost 10-year-long process. Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela stated, “Today marks a historic moment for Panama, for our hemisphere and the world,” according to the Associated Press.
Forty thousand laborers have been working on the canal expansion for years. The canal can now accommodate neo-Panamax mega ships, and ports across the U.S. are dropping billions to make room for the beastly vessel.
U.S. Ambassador to Panama John Feeley said the achievement is a “wonder of engineering,” and that “this expansion will reconfigure, permanently, the map of the global shipping industry.”
Second lady of the United States Jill Biden attended the event along with several members of the U.S. Congress.
A Chinese ship was the first to pass through the newly-expanded canal. China is currently investing $50 billion to build a rival canal in Nicaragua. Even though China has made a significant investment in the Nicaraguan project through the Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Group (HKND), construction has been stalled since 2014.
The U.S. built the Panama Canal along with Panamanians from 1903 to 1914 under Roosevelt, after helping Panama achieve its independence from Colombia. A one-time $10 million payment was made by the U.S. for a 10-mile wide strip of land along with a $250,000 annuity.
The Panama Canal was controlled by the U.S. Department of Defense from August, 1914, to January, 2000, when it was handed over to Panama.
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