First Lock Gate Installed on Pacific Side of Expanded Panama Canal

The first new lock gate is installed on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal expansion, January 19, 2015. Photo courtesy ACP
The first new lock gate is installed on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal expansion, January 19, 2015. Photo courtesy ACP

Another significant milestone in the construction of the expanded Panama Canal this week: the installation of the first new lock gate on the Pacific side.

The Panama Canal Authority reports that the first gate for the Pacific side locks was carried to its destination on 400-wheel self-propelled motorized wheel transporters (SPMTs) and installed on Monday. Overall, the Canal expansion project is currently 85 percent complete.

The gate, located in what is known as lock head one, is the first of eight gates that will be installed in the new locks at the Pacific side of the waterway. The steel rolling gate measures 8 meters wide, 57.6 meters long and 22.28 meters in height, weighing 2,300 tons.

“[Monday’s] installation marks an important step towards the completion of the Expansion Program,” said Panama Canal Administrator/CEO Jorge L. Quijano. “This project will have an important impact on world maritime trade and will further position Panama as the logistic hub of the Americas.”

The installation of the gates for the new locks began in December 2014 on the Atlantic side, where two gates have already been installed. The two new lock complexes will have a total of 16 gates, eight in the Pacific and eight in the Atlantic, which were delivered from Italy in shipments of 4 beginning in August 2013. All 16 gates have the same length – 57.6 meters – but vary in height, width and weight depending on their location in the locks.

The Panama Canal Expansion consists on the construction of a third lane of traffic allowing the passage of larger vessels, which will effectively double the Canal’s capacity. The Third Set of Locks are expected to become operational in January 2016.

News of this week’s milestone comes amid reports that the expansion project has incurred $2.39 billion in cost overruns, according to new information from Grupo Unidos por el Canal (GUPC), which is the consortium overseeing the expansion project. The expansion had been forecasted to cost $5.25 billion.