The contractor group that is building the new set of locks for the Panama Canal began permanent concrete work on both the Atlantic and Pacific locks, marking one of the most important phases of the construction.
The phase, which is scheduled for completion by October 2014, is part of the larger project to expand the canal, allowing larger vessels to call on East Coast ports.
In March, the lead contractor, Grupo Unidos por el Canal, started pouring lean concrete at both lock sites to level the surface in preparation for the permanent concrete work.
This month, GUPCSA poured structural marine concrete to shape the floor of the upper chamber in Gatun, on the Atlantic side. It poured the concrete into specialized industrial formwork that included a significant amount of rebar (steel bars or rods used to reinforce concrete), to shape the 100 cubic meter blocks that make up the lock floor.
On the Pacific side, concrete pouring activities also began with the construction of the pit for the first of three lock crossunders or tunnels. Through these crossunders, trays and pipes will carry communication and electricity wires, drinking water pipelines and other components needed to operate the lock complex. Each set of locks will have three crossunders.
Each of the pits is built by stacking 16 blocks made of structural concrete and rebar. The pits, at a height comparable to that of a 10-story building, will include a series of steps and an elevator enabling access to the crossunder.
The new locks will be 1,400 feet long, 180 feet wide and 60 feet deep and will be able to accommodate ships up to 1,200 feet long. By comparison, the existing locks, which are 1,000 feet long, 100 feet wide and 42 feet deep, handle ships up to 965 feet in length.
In its entirety, the new set of locks will require 4.8 million cubic meters of concrete.