Panama Canal revenue rose 14 per cent to a record US$2bn for this year through September, according to Bloomberg and the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, shipping traffic declined 0.1 per cent in the first nine months of 2008 from a year earlier, the Panama Canal Authority said in a statement.

The 94-year-old canal, which connects the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea, is undergoing a US$5.2bn expansion project to handle larger vessels. Some 27 per cent of the world's container ships are too big to navigate the 50-mile-long canal, and that will rise to 37 per cent by 2011, the agency has said.

The authority said that they would hold off awarding contracts in December to build three new locks to expand the canal. The contracts, to be granted in March, won't delay the completion of larger shipping lanes, the agency said.