Friday, November 14, 2014

Final Lock Gates Arrive to Complete Panama Canal Expansion Project

With All Materials in Place End is in Sight for Epic Construction Programme
Shipping News Feature

PANAMA – The Panama Canal Expansion project is now entering the final stages having reached another major milestone with the arrival of the last shipment of gates for the new locks. Four gates arrived on board the Post-Panamax vessel, Xia Zhi Yuan 6, owned by COSCO Ocean Shipping, after a 25-day voyage from the Port of Trieste in Italy. This final shipment, which included two gates to be used in the Atlantic and two in the Pacific, arrived to the temporary dock located in the Atlantic side. Panama Canal Administrator Jorge Quijano, said:

"This is a major milestone for the Panama Canal Expansion since we now have all 16 rolling gates in Panama to be installed in the new locks. With this Expansion, the Panama Canal will remain competitive, opening new markets and possibilities for international trade through the waterway."

All gates 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 to be installed in the Pacific locks are the tallest of all 16, standing 33 metres in height, comparable to an 11-story building, and weighing 4,232 tonnes. These gates will be used in lock head four, facing the Pacific Ocean. The two gates to be installed in the Atlantic locks are 10 metres wide, 29 metres in height and weigh 3,319 tonnes.

The construction of the gates began in October 2011 by subcontractor Cimolai, based in Italy. The new locks will have a total of 16 rolling gates, eight for each new lock complex. The gates were delivered to Panama in staggered shipments of four at a time. The first gate shipment arrived on August 20, 2013. The second and third shipment arrived on June 10, 2014 and September 7, 2014.

The gates for the Pacific side have been transiting one by one through the current waterway on board a barge assisted by two Panama Canal tugboats. Currently, four of the eight gates have already been transferred to the construction site in the Pacific.

The Canal expansion project, now over 80% complete, involves widening the channel and adding a third set of locks, one set on the Pacific and the other on the Atlantic side. The new locks requiring the 16 gates when complete will increase efficiency and allow larger post-Panamax ships and extended width barges to travel through the Canal, the management hoping this will result in a higher volume of containerised and non-containerised, break bulk and project shipments passing through the important waterway.

Photo: The huge lock gates arrive. Courtesy Panama Canal.