Oct 20th, 2011

  • Panama President witnesses major milestone for Panama Canal expansion project

  • Filling of new segment between new Locks and the Culbera Cut will enable transit of Post-Panamax vessels

Panama President Ricardo Martinelli witnessed a new milestone at the Canal Expansion this week, with the flooding of the first section of the newly excavated lock lanes on the Pacific Side of the canal.

The filling of this sector will allow the transit of Post-Panamax vessels between the new Locks and the Culebra Cut.

Panama Canal Authority Board of Directors Chairman and Canal Affairs Minister Rómulo Roux and Panama Canal Authority Administrator Alberto Alemán Zubieta accompanied President Martinelli as he activated the valves to fill up this new channel which is located under the Centennial Bridge, the closest area to the Culebra Cut.

"Today we witness another important milestone of the Panama Canal Expansion, which shows the work is progressing satisfactorily," said Rómulo Roux.

The excavation works are being executed by the Jan De Nul Group, currently four and a half months ahead of their contractual schedule.

The entrance to the new channel is 1.6 kilometers long, 218 meters wide and 9.14 meters above sea level.

It will take approximately three days to fill the area up to 12.5 meters of water and to reach the elevation of 21.64 feet above sea level, using 1.4 million cubic meters of water from Gatun Lake.

The rest of the new access channel is 6.1 kilometers long, and will be filled during 2013, once the 2.3-kilometer dam that separates this to the current channel is completed.

To date, the Expansion Program shows a 30% advance on its different components such as dredging, dry excavation, design and construction of the new Locks. The Panama Canal has awarded contracts for more than US$4.2 billion generating 19,000 direct jobs.

The expansion of the Panama Canal is scheduled to be completed in 2014.