eNews • December 11, 2014
Promoting a Cost-Effective, Reliable and Competitive Transportation System

Final shipment of Panama Canal gates arrives

The final shipment of gates for the new locks of the expanded Panama Canal recently arrived, bringing the project that will allow for the passage of bigger vessels into its final stages.

“We are now in the homestretch to complete the expansion,” said Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela during a brief ceremony commemorating the arrival of the gates.

The four gates arrived on board the post-Panamax vessel Xia Zhi Yuan 6, operated by Cosco Ocean Shipping, after a 25-day voyage from Italy’s port of Trieste. The four gates were delivered to the temporary dock on the Atlantic side of the canal, but two of the gates are for the Atlantic side and two are for the Pacific side.

The two gates to be installed in the Pacific locks are the tallest of all 16, standing 33 meters in height - as tall as an 11-story building - and weighing 4,232 tons. These gates will be used in lock head four facing the Pacific Ocean. The two gates to be installed in the Atlantic locks are 10 meters wide, 29 meters in height and weigh 3,319 tons. All of the gates have the same length of 57.6 meters but vary in height, width and weight depending on their location in the locks, the Panama Canal Authority said.

The gates belonging to the Pacific have been transiting one by one through the current waterway on board a barge assisted by two Panama Canal tugboats. Currently, four of the eight gates have already been transferred to the construction site in the Pacific.

All of the gates - eight for the Atlantic and eight for the Pacific - were delivered to Panama in staggered shipments of four at a time. The first gate shipment arrived on August 20, 2013, the second and third shipments arrived on June 10, 2014 and the fourth shipment on September 7, 2014. The construction of the gates began in October 2011 by subcontractor Cimolai SpA in Italy.

The deadline for completing the $5.25 billion expansion has already been delayed multiple times, with the original target date of October 2014 currently set back by a total of 16 months to early 2016.

When the expanded canal does finally open to commercial traffic, it will be able to handle most, but not all, of the world’s container ships, those only up to roughly 12,500 TEUs, up from a maximum of roughly 5,000 TEUs today. That’s why the Panama Canal Authority is already studying the possibility of building even larger locks than the set now under construction and has chosen a place for them.

Source: Journal of Commerce


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