The Panama Canal expansion has reached another important milestone with the transfer of the first gates to the new locks complex on the Atlantic side. The first of the four gigantic gates that will serve this, the third lock, has now been installed.
The gates left Trieste in Italy by ship on 18 May 2014, and have now joined four others that were delivered during the summer last year. The remaining eight gates planned for the project are scheduled to be delivered by next year.
Italian-Spanish consortium GUPC (Groupo Unidos per el Canal SA) is in charge of the project, with MWH Global appointed to lead the design with TetraTech (USA) and Iv-Infra (Netherlands). The gates have been built in Italy by the Salini-Impregilo group.
Each of the lock gates is 57.6m long, 11m wide, 30m tall and weighs in at a whopping 3,000 tons. Instead of being hinged, the new gates – which are hollow – will slide, opening or closing in a time of 4 to 5 minutes.
To date, about 77% of the work on the expanded Panama Canal has been completed. Although it was hoped that work would be completed this year to coincide with the Panama Canal’s 100th anniversary, it is now projected that the enhanced canal will open in 2016.
Once open, it will allow the passage of Post-Panamax ships between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Post-Panamax vessels are nearly 400m long, and capable of transporting 13,000 containers – nearly triple current capacity.
By Gail Taylor