Putzmeister America, Inc. and its Special Applications Business group are providing their complete global systems approach, including their pumping and material placing equipment, to the historic Panama Canal Third Set of Locks project. The Third Set of Locks will create a new third lane of traffic along the Canal, doubling its capacity and allowing more traffic and longer, wider ships to pass through.
The Canal's History
It was first determined in the 1930s that the most effective and efficient way to increase the Canal's capacity was to construct a third set of locks with larger dimensions than those of the locks built in 1914. The United States initiated the construction of the Third Set of Locks in 1939 to allow the transit of commercial and war ships that exceeded the size of the existing locks. The expansion was halted in 1942 because of the outbreak of World War II.
Interest picked back up again and studies in recent years by the Panama Canal Authority, the owner/developer of the project, pointed to the same solution as was deemed in the 1930s, that a larger, third set of locks would be the most suitable, profitable and environmentally responsible way to increase Canal capacity and allow the Panamanian maritime route to continue to grow.
The Third Set of Locks
There are four objectives the ACP has put forth for this project, and they include: making long-term growing and sustainable contributions to the Panamanian society through the payments the Canal makes to the National Treasury; maintaining the Canal's competitiveness as well as the value of the Panama maritime route to the national economy; increasing the Canal's capacity in order to capture the growing demand with the appropriate level of service for each market segment; and increasing the Canal's productivity, safety and efficiency.
There are three main components of the project.
- Construction of two 1,400-foot long by 180-foot wide by 60-foot deep lock facilities. One will be in the Atlantic side and one will be in the Pacific side of the Canal. Each of the locks will have three chambers, and each chamber will have three water reutilization basins. The basins will allow the third set of locks to reutilize 60 percent of water in each transit and use seven percent less water per transit than each of the existing lock lanes.
- Construction of access channels for the new locks and widening existing channels.
- Deepening of existing navigation channels and the elevation of Gatun Lake's maximum operating level.
The design-build contract for the project was awarded to Consortium Grupo Unidos por el Canal, which is made up of four companies: Sacyr Vallehermoso S.A., Impregilo S.p.A., Jan De Nul n.v. and Constructora Urbana, S.A.
Construction started in late 2007 and the target date for completion is August 2014 - 100 years after the initial locks on the Canal were opened.
Bob Weiglein, Telebelt division manager for Putzmeister America, traveled to Milano, Italy, where he was introduced to Mr. Alberto Buffa of Impregilo S.p.A. by the president of Putzmeister Italy, Dr. Rober Abel, to discuss what material placing solutions Putzmeister's SAB unit could offer for the Third Set of Locks.
"SAB is a partnership between Putzmeister America, Inc., Allentown Shotcrete Technology, Inc., Esser Pipe Technology and Maxon Industries, Incorporated," says Weiglein. "This partnership offers a complete systems approach that offers all products to all projects around the world, to customers in tunneling and mining, dams and power generation, transportation, and marine and offshore industries."
In the meeting it was expressed that flexible, maneuverable and mobile material placing systems were key because of the job site's unstable terrain.
"Just as the original Canal faced land slides and flooding," explains Weiglein. "Todays work sites have areas of flooding and unstable banks as well as solid rock."