Panama starts testing of new locks in Expanded Canal

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In April this year, The Panama Canal Authority supervised the installation of 16 giant lock gates that are a key part of the waterway’s multibillion – dollar expansion program.  Now, as a next milestone, the tests on the installed new lock gates began on Tuesday 23rd June 2015.

Each lock chamber will have three water-saving basins, which will reuse 60 % of the water in each transit.  There are a total of nine basins for each of the two lock complexes totalling to 18 basins for the entire project.  Each water – saving basin is approximately 70 meters wide by 5.50 meters deep.

The 16 rolling gates are of varying altitude depending on their location.  They operate from concrete recesses that lie perpendicular to the lock chambers.  These gates can be maintained on site without the need for removal.  In order to reduce the weight of the gates by as much as 15%, they are built with buoyancy tanks.

The tests of the new lock gates on the Atlantic side began soon after the Pacific side locks were filled.  The lower chambers of the gates will be filled with 90,000 gallons of water with the help of 13 diesel pumps working simultaneously to fill in the chambers.  The filling and testing process is expected to take three months approximately.

This Third Set of Locks project is the most important component of the Expansion Program.  It entails the construction of the two new lock complexes in the Pacific and Atlantic sides of the Panama Canal, creating a third lane of traffic for container ships which are too big to fit through the Panama Canal’s old locks.  The Third Set of Locks are expected to become operational in 2016.

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