The first four new lock gates for the Panama Canal Expansion Program arrive in Colon City

First four gates for Panama Canal expansion arrive

The first of the new lock gates for the Panama Canal Expansion Program have arrived at their destination.

The new gates arrived at Colon City on the waterway's Atlantic side yesterday from the port of Trieste, Italy, on board the semi-submersible vessel STX Sun Rise yesterday.

The Panama Canal Expansion, started in 2006 and now 62 per cent complete, involves the construction of a third lane of traffic allowing, which will double the Canal's capacity by 2015.

But the new and improved canal may have to go toe-to-toe with a new project in Nicaragua, after the Government granted a 50-year concession to a Chinese firm looking to build a shipping channel through the country in June.

"This is an exciting moment for the Panama Canal - the arrival of the new gates marks a great progress for this engineering project," Panama Canal Administrator Jorge L. Quijano said. "With the expansion, we will further reinforce our position as the maritime and logistics hub of the Americas."

Built by Italian subcontractor Cimolai, the first four gates are 57.6m long, 10m wide and 30.19m high, and weigh an average of 3,100 tons and will be installed in the middle chamber of the new lock complex on the Atlantic side of the waterway.

The steel gates will be transported to their final position using the same self-propelled motorized wheel transporters (SPMTs) that are used to load and unload from the ship.

The new locks of the expanded Panama Canal have a total of 16 rolling gates – eight for each new lock complex – and the gates are being shipped four at a time from Italy before being unloaded onto a temporary dock until they are ready for installation.

One lock complex will be located on the Pacific side, southwest of the existing Miraflores Locks, while the other will be located east of the existing Gatun Locks.

The new lock chambers will be 427m long, 55m wide, and 18m deep and will use rolling gates instead of miter gates, which are used by the existing locks, in line with almost all existing locks with dimensions similar to those proposed. The new locks will use tugboats to position the vessels instead of locomotives.

Each chamber will have three lateral water-saving basins, for a total of nine basins per lock and 18 basins total and the new locks and their basins will continue to be filled and emptied by gravity, without the use of pumps.

The location of the new locks uses a significant portion of the area excavated by the USA in 1939 and suspended in 1942 because of World War II.

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