Friday, May 1, 2015

Final Gate for Panama Canal but Largest Container, Tankers and Bulk Freight Vessels Still Too Big

Video Gives an Idea of the Immense Project as Last Pacific Gate Goes In
Shipping News Feature

PANAMA – The Panama Canal Expansion project has literally reached a huge, key milestone in its aim to meet the expected demand in traffic growth and keep up with the requirements of the international freight and shipping community, with the installation of the sixteenth and final gate for the new locks on the Pacific side of the Canal. Weighing in at 4,232 tonnes and measuring a truly outstanding 33 metres high, 57.6 metres long and 10 metres wide, this final gate is one of the heaviest.

Although we have included a photograph of the new gate, the full scale of the project can be better illustrated by taking a look at a short corporate video viewable here. Better still, a visit to the site leaves the most hard-nosed civil engineers quite breathless.

The installation process began on April 28 at 12:00 local time on the south end of the Canal's Pacific locks, which connect directly to the ocean. All the gates installed have the same length of 57.6 metres but vary in height, width and weight depending on their location in the locks. The two gates in the Pacific locks are the tallest. In comparison, the two gates installed in the Atlantic locks are a ‘mere’ 10 metres wide, 29 metres in height and weigh 3,319 tonnes. Administrator Jorge L. Quijano, said:

"[This] installation is a key milestone in the Expansion Programme and another important step forward for the Canal. Once finished, the expanded waterway will provide new possibilities for world maritime trade and further position the Canal as a reliable route to the industry."

Manufactured in Italy by subcontractor Cimolai, the new gates first arrived in Panama in four staggered shipments starting in August of 2013. With the installation of the final gate in the Pacific, another important stage begins with the electro-mechanical work, which connects the gates with the other structures in the new locks.

The Panama Canal Expansion recorded an overall advance of 87.6% among all its components. With all 16 gates now installed, the next milestone for the expanded Canal will occur when the lock chambers are flooded. Despite all the works undertaken there will be no room for the latest generation of giant container vessels and there 20,000 TEU payloads. Currently limited to vessels of about 5,000 TEU the jump to New Panamax and the ability to handle ships up to circa 13,000 TEU will benefit many but the biggest of box carriers, TI class supertankers, and Valemax ore carriers will still have to avoid the canal.