Originally built in 1914, the Panama Canal has been working at full capacity for years and was plagued by congestion due to an ever growing international trade. The size of ships having also increased over decades (from Panamax to Post-Panamax ships), the creation of a larger third set of locks was the agreed long-term solution. The idea isn’t new since the US started the construction in 1939 but came to a grinding stop in 1942 when it joined the allied forces in WWII. It is now almost completed, but it wasn’t done overnight!
- Create 2 new lanes and increase by 1 ½ the maximum width and length of the channels to accommodate Post-Panamax ships. These lanes will be able to carry twice as much cargo and a result double the current canal’s capacity by 2016. In addition to increasing capacity, the third set of locks will also improve productivity, efficiency and safety. It will eliminate the congestion that occurs every year during the high season between December and March that can cause up to a week in delay.
- Raising 1.5 feet the maximum operational level of the Gatun lake and widening the navigational channel will also increase the water reserve capacity, the quantity of water used by the locks without impacting the supply of water for human consumption.
A GREENER DESIGN
The new channels will each have three chambers and water saving basins. The third lock in each channel will be re-utilizing 60% of the water thus using 70% less water per transit/lock cycles compared to existing locks. The basins will be filled by gravity (without water pumps) like their older counterparts.
July 2009 – Contract is signed with Consortium Grupo Unidos por el Canal (GUPA) to undertake the project.
Sept 2009 – Dredging of Canal’s Atlantic entrance starts (removal of approx. 14.8 million cubic meters of material!)
2010 – Dredging of Pacific section completed (4.6 million cubic meters of material).
July 2011 – Start of pouring structural concrete in the third set of the locks project.
Oct 2011 – 1.4 million cubic of water are used to partially flood the channel (1,300 acres area).
Sept 2012 – Extension of the 14 existing gates allowing a 1 1/2-foot increase the Gatun spillway’s maximum operational level.
June 2013 – Both Pacific and Atlantic maritime entrances are now wider and deeper.
2014-2015 – Installation of 16 new gates.
June 2015 – Both Pacific and Atlantic locks are filled and gates are tested.
April 2016 – Official completion of the project.
ELEMENTS OF THE PROJECT:
To create a larger lock, two 1,400-foot long by 180-foot wide by 60-foot deep lock facilities were built. One to access the Pacific side and the other for the Atlantic side. View complete drawings of the Canal new lock system.
SOME CHALLENGES :
Being prone to landslides, unstable banks and flooding, the job site required a mobile and flexible system for placing material. Concrete and gravel was first placed to lay the foundation. Six Telebelts TB 130 telescopic belt conveyors were chosen because they allow the placement of different types of material with one piece of equipment. Also, if changes in terrain conditions were suddenly to occur, the equipment could quickly be teared down, moved and setup again elsewhere.
In addition to the 6 Telebelt TB 130 telescopic belt conveyors, Putzmeister America and its Special Applications Business group (SAB) supplied Thom-Katt trailer pumps and boom pumps for a complete pumping solution-based approach.
To complete the third Set of locks:
– 39,238 cubic yards were excavated.
– 4,486 cubic yards of reinforced concrete were poured.
– 260 tons of reinforced bars were used.
– 1,060 ton on cement was placed.
With over 47 years of experience in the construction industry, United Equipment Sales has advised on several international large projects similar to the Panama Canal and is always available to help you find the best deal on pumping equipment (pumps, hose and accessories) and aerial lifts. Give us a call!