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Panama Canal Expansion Program – Part II

Sep-15, 2016


The Third Set of Locks project is the most momentous part of the Expansion Program. The main of this expansion is to entail the construction of the two new lock complexes in the Pacific and Atlantic sides of the Panama Canal and to create a wider and third lane of traffic for bigger ships. Each lock compound will have three steps.

The Contract was awarded toThe International Consortium Grupo Unidos por el Canal, S.A. (GUPC).

What was the official time the expansion program began?

Work to expand the Panama Canal has officially begun in September 2007.

The expansion program of Panama Canal has become a significant source of job opportunities for many people who were jobless and are of need. Since the execution of this program, more than 30,000 jobs were created along with the training programs for the professionals in different job fields.

Where will the new locks be located?

One lock will be located on the Pacific side to the southwest of the existing Miraflores Locks. The other lock will be located to the east of the existing Gatun Locks.


How do they work?

While each lock complex has three chambers; and the configuration will be similar for the existing Gatun Locks. However this project has created a new lane with an additional lock on each side, given at a capacity to handle vessels up to forty-nine meters (160 feet) wide, 366 meters (1,200 feet) long and fifteen meters (50 feet) deep, or with a cargo volume of up to 170,000 DWT and 12,000 TEU.

There are sixteen gates that are required for the new locks execution and the total sixteen rolling gates are fixed eight on each new locks complex.

Pacific Access Channel

What is the Pacific Access Channel?

The official work to expand the Panama Canal has begun initially in September2007; with dry-excavation work to create the Pacific Access Channel which will link the Third Set of Locks on the Pacific side towards the Culebra Cut. As per the design, the project consists of four phases such as PAC1, PAC2, PAC3, and PAC4.

The first three dry-excavation phases Pacific Access Channel 1 and Pacific Access Channel 3 have been already been completed and the work calls for the excavation of around 50 million cubic meters of material; till date, the required depth to allow navigation by vessels with deeper draft has already been achieved.

Raising Gatun Lake’s Maximum Operating Level

What does the project of raising Gatun Lake’s maximum operating level entails?

This project consists of the maximum raising level of Gatun Lake from 26.7 – 27.1 meters; with the focus to improve the Canal’s water supply. This expansion program enables the additional water storage capacity for Gatun Lake by nearly 200 plus million cubic meters and allows approximately 1,100 additional transits every year.

The project calls to modify the specific structures in Gatun and Pedro Miguel locks.