Big Decisions: Should the Panama Canal Construct Another Set of Locks and Lanes?

We’ve been involved in some pretty big decisions, but one of the biggest was the one that had to be made by the Panamanian government about the future of its patrimonio nacional, the Panama Canal. The government had to decide whether building a third, larger set of locks and lanes – in effect, replicating the scale of effort required to dig the Canal in the first place a century ago – was worth the cost and the risk. We helped them construct a set of 43-year planning scenarios for the global maritime transportation system of the future, and facilitated board members, Canal staff, and key external stakeholders as they considered strategies that would flourish no matter how the future turned out.  The third set of locks and lanes emerged as a robust initiative, with some risks that were far more clearly understood via the scenario experience. In 2006, the national referendum passed with well over 70% approval of the expansion proposal; the project is estimated to be completed by 2015, effectively doubling the capacity of the waterway.