Nov 05

Panama’s New Canal Expansion opening in 2016!

Concrete pumping

Courtesy of Canal de Panama

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.


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.


Sept 2007 – The project breaks ground.

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.


Panama Canal concrete placing

Panama Canal Expansion Project – Courtesy of Canal de Panama

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.


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.


Used Putzmeister Katt-kretter pump

Putzmeister Katt-kretter pump

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!



May 27

Underwater Concrete Pumping

While most concrete jobs are done on dry land, there are many uses for concrete underwater, like building dams, bridges, sea walls, underwater foundations, repairing coral reefs and more. The first successful attempt to build under water is credited to the Greeks and dates as far back as 600 BC with the discovery of pozzualana, a
special calcined lime found on the island of Santorini.

Coral Reef in Florida

One interesting case was the underwater project that repaired the Molasses Reed, the third largest barrier reef in the world,  that was damaged by a shipwreck 6 miles Southeast of Key Largo, Florida. This accident caused the destruction of a major habitat for fish, marine and coral life. The solution was to create modules by combining small lime stone boulders, fiberglass reinforcement bars, concrete and sand. Then to lower the modules underwater and pour concrete in these modules with a hydraulic concrete pump to tie them to the damaged reef. A Putzmeister Katt-Kreter pump was used to complete this project along with a 4-yard mixer truck on the barge. Its ability to reverse the concrete back to the hopper was essential to the success of the operation.

Putzmeister Katt Kreter Pump (Side-view)








Usual settings include a boom pump or placing boom either land based or large barge mounted. In addition, there are a few challenges operators must keep in mind:

1) Placing the line below water surface requires the line to be grouted or “primed” in a way so that no water is in contact with the priming material before the prime reaches the discharge end of the pumping system. If this doesn’t happen, the grout can become too diluted and no longer properly lubricates the system, which will cause plugs. This will cause costly delays and extra steps to clear them.

2) To grout a water filled line, we recommend using 2 sponges suited for the size of the pipe line placed above the water level. Concrete must be pumped slowly so that it never passes the sponges and the water is displaced by the concrete without ever contaminating one another. Another way to achieve this is to place the concrete line inside existing concrete. Even though concrete is poured in water, the line must be kept out of the  This is essential to the integrity and strength of the resulting poured concrete.

3) In terms of cement material content, operators must include a high volume of fly ash and silica fume and chemical admixtures.

4) One of the biggest risk is overloading the pumping boom.This requires close collaboration between the pump and crane operators. Both should check to see a droop in the hose between the placing boom and the additional system to make sure it doesn’t happen.

If you are looking for a great deal on concrete pumps for a job on dry land or underwater, don’t hesitate to call Dick at (503)283-2105.

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