Friday, October 2, 2015

Rebar Lacking in Panama Locks

By Mark Edward Nero

The contractor responsible for the design and construction of a set of locks for the expansion of the Panama Canal says it has found the cause of localized seepage found last month in the concrete sill between the lower and middle chamber of the Canals expanded Pacific Ocean-facing locks.

In a recent letter to the Panama Canal Authority, contractor Grupo Unidos por el Canal, known as GUPC, wrote that the localized seepage was the result of insufficient steel reinforcement in the area that was subjected to stress from extreme condition testing. After examination of all the other sills in both lock complexes, GUPC stated that in addition to reinforcing the sill that presented the issue, they would also reinforce the sills in the first two sets of locks as a preventative measure, even though the sills have not presented any issue.

Canal Authority said that GUPC also verbally indicated that the completion date for the expansion project remains April 2016, as planned; however, the Authority said it is awaiting formal confirmation from GUPC in the form of a comprehensive report which should also include the root cause of the detected filtrations.

The Panama Canal Authority revealed Sept. 7 that during stress testing of new locks for the Panama Canal, water seepage was detected in a specific area of the new Pacific Ocean-side locks in a section separating the middle and lower chambers.

Despite the setback, the expansion project has now reached 93 percent completion, according to the Canal Authority, and work continues in other areas of the project.

The $5 billion Panama Canal expansion is expected to allow post-Panamax ships to travel through the canal en route to East Coast terminals, thereby bypassing the US West Coast. It was initially scheduled to be complete in 2014 to coincide with the 100-year anniversary of the opening of the existing canal, but snafus have delayed the completion by nearly two years so far.