Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Gates Moved to New Panama Canal Locks

By Mark Edward Nero

The Panama Canal expansion has reached an important milestone with the transfer of the first gates to the new locks complex in the Atlantic side, the Panama Canal Authority revealed July 21.

“This is a very important operation because it involved the first movement of the gates from the special dock where they were unloaded to the lower chamber of the new locks,” Canal Authority Administrator Jorge L. Quijano explained.

A key component of the expansion is construction of two new ship lock system complexes – one each on the Atlantic and Pacific sides. The current lock system lifts ships of up to 85 feet to the main elevation of the Panama Canal and down again.

Quijano said the recent gate transfer process was carried out following safety measures to ensure that the more than 3,000-ton steel structures could be moved to the dry lock chambers using a pavement ramp specially built for the purpose. Eight of the 16 rolling gates to be used for the new locks are already in Panama. The remaining eight are expected to arrive in two separate shipments from a manufacturing site in Italy.

This week, the other gates are expected to be moved from the temporary unloading dock to the dry lock chambers to be able to use the area for the arrival of the remaining lock gates.

Among the project’s components are the excavations of new access channels, the widening of existing channels and the deepening of navigation channels. The expansion is expected to allow post-Panamax ships to travel through the canal en route to East Coast terminals, something that could negatively affect West Coast vessel traffic.

The Panama Canal Expansion Program is about 77 percent complete, according to the Canal Authority.