The project to increase the capacity of the Panama Canal is 95% complete, according to the contractor consortium Grupo Unidos por el Canal (GUPC). The group said the structures were being tested ahead of the planned opening in April next year.
The project has taken seven years and 100 million working hours according to GUPC, which comprises Sacyr of Spain, Salini Impregilo of Italy, Jan de Nul of Belgium and Cusa of Panama.
The key structures are a series of locks with sliding gates, each of which weighs some 3,300 tonnes. These have already undergone alignment, synchronisation and sealing tests. Meanwhile the associated concrete structures have also been tested. GUPC said this highlighted a seepage issue on one lockhead on the Pacific side, for which a reapir has since been developed.
The expansion project will allow so-called Post Panamax vessels to use the canal. These have a capacity of up to 13,600 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) shipping containers, n admeasure nearly 400 m in length. The largest vessels currently able to use the Panama Canal are 4,400 TEU ships.