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Panama Canal Expansion Enters Second Half of Construction

The Panama Canal Expansion is 50 percent complete, announced the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) at the end of January.

“The program continues to progress and reach milestones while we focus the next phases on building the locks,” said Panama Canal Administrator Jorge L. Quijano.

Several projects in the expansion program are finished, including dredging the navigation channels in the Canal entrances on the Pacific and Atlantic sides, and in the Gaillard Cut. The remaining dredging work in Gatun Lake is expected to be completed this year.

The excavations of the Pacific lock access channel are 70 percent complete. This project calls for the excavation of more than 50 million cubic meters of materials along a 6.1 km span, executed in four phases. Three of the four phases have been completed and the fourth phase is 69 percent complete.

For the operation of the third set of locks the first shipment of 47 valves arrived in January 2013. These valves are part of the Post-Panamax locks electromechanical system that will regulate water flow between the chambers, the culverts and water-saving basin conduit. A second shipment is scheduled to arrive at the end of January. By the end of 2013, a total of 158 valves (culvert, equalization and conduit), 84 bulkheads and 328 trash racks will have arrived for the project. The valves where built in South Korea by Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries.

New lock construction is 37 percent complete. The new lock complexes in the Pacific and Atlantic sides will feature three chambers, three water-saving basins per chamber, a lateral filling and emptying system, and rolling gates.

“We estimate based on the progress that we can begin commercial transits mid-2015,” the Panama Canal Authority said. It is closely monitoring progress on every component of the expansion program to guarantee that contractors comply with the quality required by each contract.

The expansion is the largest project at the Canal since its original construction and will double its capacity to allow more traffic.

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