International Dredging Review

International Dredging Review

On Sunday June 26 the new Panama Canal was inaugurated with the passage of the 984-foot Chinese Neopanamax container ship from COSCO Shipping Panama through the Agua Clara locks at Colón. Colón is a city and sea port on the Caribbean Sea near the Atlantic entrance to the Canal and the locks are named for the province of Agua Clara. The Chinese vessel had departed from the Greek port of Piraeus on June 11 and two weeks later was greeted with fireworks and cheers from a crowd that had gathered to witness this historic event. This marked the official opening of the expanded Panama Canal which represents a US$5.25 billion investment.

Eleven hours and 50 miles (80 kilometers) after passing through the locks on the Atlantic side the Chinese container ship appeared at the Cocoli locks near Panama City on the Pacific side where she was greeted by more exuberant crowds. This passage and the celebrations mark the completion of this 10-year-long canal improvement project sponsored by Autoridad del Canal de Panama (ACP) the Panama Canal Authority.

The project for the third set of locks included huge earthmoving and concrete works and dredging. Jan De Nul Group was a major partner in the construction of both lock com-plexes one on the Atlantic side and one on the Pacific Ocean side. Dredging International also participated with work that included capi-tal dredging rock dredging drilling and blasting of very hard rock which took place from April 2008 and June 2013. 

Thanks to these locks larger vessels will be able to sail through the Panama Canal liter-ally doubling the vessel capacity of the canal. Each of the lock complexes include three consecutive lock chambers which means that all in all six lock chambers have been built. The newly widened canal has already had an impact on plans to improve ports up and down the East Coast of the U.S.

The opening of these locks does not mean that the work at the Panama Canal has stopped. In the course of 2015 Jan De Nul Group won three new contracts at the Pacific side of the canal. One contract in a consortium is for the second phase of the extension of the international container terminal PSA Panama (Port of Singapore Authority-Panama). The first partial contract awarded in April included dry earthmoving and soil remediation works to prepare for the subsequent construction of a new quay wall. Jan De Nul Group was responsible for the demolition of existing structures the excavation of the quay area the levelling of the future port site and the drainage and consolidation of the site. This partial contract was success-fully completed in November. The second and third partial contracts include dredging and earthmoving works the development of a new port site of 27 acres and the construction of an 800-meter (about 2625-foot) long quay wall. During the extension works the existing quay and container terminal must remain operational. To this end the extension must be realized in stages to ensure that the work do not obstruct the port activities. The pre-set deadline for these contracts is September 2017 but several milestones have been set to already be able to take the new quay into use in the first half of 2017.