Design and construction of the third set of locks within the Panama Canal expansion project
Construction Date: under construction
The Expansion of the Canal is one of the largest and most ambitious works of modern engineering.
The Third Set of Locks is a new lane of traffic that runs alongside the current locks: they are two enormous and complex works, one in the Atlantic and the other in the Pacific, each with a length of almost two kilometers. Sacyr leads the consortium responsible for the design and construction of the new locks (GUPC).
The project, strategically and meticulously designed, allows the Panama Canal to more than double its current capacity in order to meet the growing demand of international trade, reducing vessel transit time and allowing the passage of larger vessels, the so-called Post-Panamax.
The new locks fill and empty more rapidly, and consume 7% less water; the nine lateral basins employed for the reuse of water make it possible to save up to 60% of this precious commodity.
The gates are paired rolling gates, not V-hinged gates like the current ones; they are fixed and move perpendicularly to the chambers.
The complexity of the project for the new locks is not just a question of their spectacular size: three chambers on each side of the locks, 427 meters in length, 55 meters in width and 18.3 meters in depth each one, using 4.5 million cubic meters of structural concrete, 220,000 tons of steel reinforcement, 62 million cubic meters of extracted soil, 7.1 million cubic meters dredged, 16 gates (the largest being 33 meters in height and with a weight of 4,300 tons) together with more than 10,000 workers of 40 different nationalities, highly-qualified at all levels. The same holds true for the enormous challenges of the area from a technical, orographic, geological and climatic viewpoint; the works posed new and major challenges in the response models in view of seismic responses, the selection of the best materials and their combination, as well as in the most suitable, efficient and sustainable structural design. To overcome these it was necessary to design a special concrete that, among other aspects, provided maximum resistance and zero permeability. With the added complexity of the transfer of the aggregate material, extracted in the Pacific, and that had to be transported in large barges to the Atlantic. The design, manufacture, transfer and installation of the new gates (16 in total), of enormous dimensions and requiring a meticulous installation, was no less complex.
A project of tremendous technical complexity, given its enormous scope and because it required the application of major doses of innovation for the design and execution of the best solution.