Panama Canal Expansion Program 2010

ACP personnel is responsible for all dredging work to be conducted for the deepening and widening of Gatun Lake, as well as the deepening of Culebra Cut, from which 27 million cubic meters of material will be removed.

To complete this project, the ACP is using the drill boats Thor and Baru and dredges Mindi and Rialto M. Christensen, aside from the dredge Il Principe leased to Jan de Nul n.v.

Dredging work began on October 6, 2008 with dredge Il Principe after several months’ preparation work with ACP’s drill boat Thor.

Dredging of the Canal Atlantic Entrance

On September 28, 2009, the ACP awarded the contract for the dredging of the Atlantic entrance to the Canal to Belgian company Jan de Nul n.v.

At a total $89.6 million, the contract was awarded under a lowest-price negotiated bidding process.

The work includes the deepening of the approach channel to 15.5 meters below mean low water level, which will require dredging of some 14.8 million cubic meters of material, and the excavation of an additional 800 thousand cubic meters of material.

An area of approximately 13.8 kilometers will be dredged to widen the Atlantic access channel from its 198 meters to a minimum 225 meters, and the north access channel to the new locks on the Atlantic side to a minimum 218 meters.

This contract includes an option for additional deepening work up to 16.1 meters from a volume of 2.3 million cubic meters of material at a cost of $16,408,600. Both volumes include the 60-centimeter dredging tolerance.


Water-saving basin (WSB) technology is the most efficient system to reduce the volume of water to be used by the new locks. The WSBs work as water-damming structures located adjacent to the locks and connected to them by culverts regulated by flow valves.

The new locks, with three water-saving basins on each chamber, will use 7% less water per transit than the existing locks.


The new locks will require 16 rolling gates that will operate from adjacent recesses located perpendicular to the lock chambers. Such gate configuration allows each recess to perform as a dry dock, which in turn enables servicing the gates on site without the need to remove them and therefore interrupt lock operations.

Miter gates, as the ones currently in operation, do not have a recess, which makes it necessary to remove and transport them to a dry dock for overhaul. This process requires the interruption of lock operations.

Design and Construction of the Third Set of Locks

After seven months of intensive administrative and field work, efforts for the design and construction of the Third Set of Locks by consortium Grupo Unidos por el Canal (GUPC) progress under strict management by the team responsible for the administration of the Third Set of Locks project.

As wildlife rescue and relocation activities are completed in the areas located within the project footprint on the Atlantic and the Pacific, consortium contractors begin clearing and grubbing tasks and topographic surveys. All this occurs under close supervision by ACP Environmental Management and Surveillance experts, who guarantee that all activities comply with the Environmental Management Plan.

As soon as the areas are cleared, activities such as the assembly of the large equipment that will excavate the nearly 37.7 million cubic meters of material from the Atlantic and Pacific sites to enable the construction of the locks are initiated.

A myriad of other activities is being conducted simultaneously including the construction, remodeling and refurbishing of contractor and subcontractor office buildings, storage areas, laboratories and shops; the design and acquisition of the main plant to produce concrete and crush the rock, along with all utility installations and others required for the operation of these large industrial parks. The demolition of existing buildings within the Atlantic locks construction perimeter is almost completed as well.

The locks contract represents approximately 60 percent of the overall budget for the Expansion Program, which purports that the details of its administration are as comprehensive as the contract itself.

The diversity of tasks handled every day by the team administering the locks project includes overseeing equipment mobilization activities, location of the plant, ground movement and the implementation and installation of security measures and devices, aside from guaranteeing the availability of access roads both for project equipment and personnel and for the residents of adjacent communities.


Source: Panama Canal Authority, June 21, 2010