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Panama Canal Expansion

Panama set to receive 3,300 ton lock gates


Excitement is mounting as the eagerly anticipated arrival of the gates of the Third Set of Locks for the Panama Canal draws near. 

Forming a vital part of the Panama Canal Expansion Programme, the massive locks require a dedicated reception area that has been specially constructed to deal with them. 

The gates are being fabricated in Italy by subcontractor Cimolai SpA. Construction began in October 2011. They will be brought across the Atlantic Ocean to a dock at the northern entrance of the canal.

Solid foundation

Each of the new gates weighs about 3,300 tons, and the dock now under construction must have a foundation solid enough to bear this load. So far, 140 reinforced concrete piles have been installed. The piles, each with a diameter of 1.5 metres, have been driven to a depth of 25 to 30 metres. Next to the dock, a storage area for up to six gates is in the initial phases of construction.

The first four of the 16 gates will be installed in the new Atlantic locks. They are expected to arrive in mid 2013. On the Pacific side, a reception dock is also under construction. Pile driving was 92% completed at the time of writing.

The new gates will operate from a recess adjacent and perpendicular to the lock chamber. This gate configuration turns each recess into a dry dock. It also allows the gates to be serviced on site, thus avoiding the need to remove them and any consequent interruption to lock operations. The system will provide more capability and flexibility because it offers shorter maintenance times at a lower cost. 

The design and construction of the Third Set of Locks is the largest and most comprehensive of the projects under the Canal Expansion Programme. The $3.2 billion contract was awarded on 15th July 2009 to Grupo Unidos por el Canal, a consortium formed by Sacyr Villahermoso, S.A. of Spain, Impregilo SpA of Italy, Jan De Nul N.V. of Belgium and Constructora Urbana, S.A. of Panama.