Panama begins testing new locks in expanded canal

The Panama Canal expansion project reached another milestone Tuesday with the start of tests of the new lock gates.

The tests kicked off in the new lock complex on the Atlantic side of the Canal, which was just recently filled with water.

Each lock complex includes three chambers, eight rolling gates and nine water-saving basins, which will reuse 60 percent of the water in each transit.


The 16 rolling gates vary in height depending on their location within the lock, but each measures 57.6 meters long by 8 to 10 meters wide and operates from concrete recesses located perpendicular to the lock chambers. Unlike the miter gates used in the current Panama Canal, the expanded configuration will allow maintenance of the gate on site without the need to remove it.

The gates are also built with buoyancy tanks, reducing the weight of the gates by as much as 15%.


The tests of the new lock gates on the Atlantic side come just a day after workers began filling the locks on the Pacific side. In that operation, powerful pumps are being used to pump water into the new lock complex from Miraflores Lake.


Three electrical pumps will provide a combined 90,000 gallons of water per minute, while 13 diesel pumps will work simultaneously to pump 7,000 gallons of water per minute each, filling the lower chamber at a rate of nine inches per hour.


The filling and testing of the new Pacific locks is expected to take approximately 90 days to complete.


The Panama Canal Expansion consists on the construction of a third lane of traffic allowing the passage of larger vessels, which will effectively double the Canal’s capacity. The Third Set of Locks are expected to become operational in 2016.

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