Panama Canal lock gates start transit to Pacific entrance

The first gate for the new locks in the Pacific side of the Panama Canal began to transit the waterway on Wednesday morning signalling another historic milestone in the progress of the Canal expansion programme.

The expansion of the canal has reached 80% of completion while the construction of the locks is at 77% as of the end of September.

The gate is transiting the waterway aboard the Crowley 455-4 barge from the Atlantic temporary dock to the Pacific, assisted by two Panama Canal tugs. It will then be transferred to the construction site of the new locks in the Pacific.

The first gate to be transferred to the Pacific side is the smallest, standing 22m tall and weighing 2,300 tonnes.  The height of each gate depends on its position inside the lock chambers. The tallest ones (33m high) will be located in lock head four facing the Pacific Ocean due to the tidal change in the area.

The height of the tallest gate can be compared to an 11-story building. The gates weigh on average 3,400 tonnes.  Since August 2013, the gates have been arriving in staggered shipments from Italy on a Post-Panamax vessel to a temporary dock in the Atlantic side. The last shipment has already departed from Italy and is expected to arrive in November 2014. The new locks will have 16 rolling gates, eight in the Pacific and eight in the Atlantic. The gates were fabricated in Italy by Cimolai SpA.

During the next two months, the remaining seven gates that are part od the new locks in the Pacific will be transiting one by one through the Panama Canal.