Wednesday, October 29, 2014

World of International Freight and Ocean Shipping Watches as Panama Canal Reaches Another Milestone

Huge Lock Gate Delivered - Increased Capacity Will Reward Gigantic Civil Engineering Project
Shipping News Feature

PANAMA – The ongoing Panama Canal expansion project has reached yet another important 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. Crowley Maritime’s heavy lift barge, 455 4, has delivered the first in a series of eight huge lock gates for the Pacific side of the project. This first gate is the smallest on the Pacific side, nevertheless standing at a towering 22 metres tall and weighing no less than 2,300 tonnes.

The 455 4 shipped the gates from Cristóbal, a port on the Atlantic side of the Canal, to Grupo Unidos por el Canal SA’s (GUPC SA) construction dock, which was built to receive the gates on the canal’s Pacific side. The 105-foot wide barge, currently the largest capable of transiting the Canal, was towed by Panama Canal Authority (ACP) tugs and made the transit in only a single day.

Contracted by Belgian heavy lift company Sarens, Crowley is scheduled to help transport all eight of the gates involved in the Pacific side lock expansion of the Canal, a project that when coupled with the Atlantic side expansion will create a new lane of vessel traffic and double the waterway’s capacity. John Ara, Vice President Crowley solutions group explained:

“Crowley provided Sarens with the barge to complete this important step in the historical expansion of the Panama Canal. As family-owned, privately-held companies, both keenly focused on safety, integrity and high performance, working together proved to be a successful partnership for a project that literally the entire world is watching.”

455 4 is one in a series of eight ‘high deck strength’ barges in Crowley’s fleet, able to handle uniform loads up to 4,200 pounds per square foot. In cooperation with Sarens and the Panama Canal Authority the barge is scheduled to transport the remaining seven gates over the next two months.

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 require 16 gates which when complete will increase efficiency and allow larger post-Panamax ships and extended width barges to travel through the Canal, likely resulting in a higher volume of containerised and non-containerised, break bulk and project shipments passing through the important waterway.