“This event demonstrates the magnitude of what we have been working for in the last seven years”, said Panama Canal Administrator Jorge Luis Quijano. “Filling the locks with water is the culmination of arduous years of labour and the realisation that we are within arm’s reach of the completion of one of the most impressive infrastructure projects of our time.”
With the initial filling of the lower chamber of Agua Clara new locks, on the Atlantic side, tests begin for the gates system. At this early stage that spans five days, the progressive filling must reach 2.4 metres below sea level, to test gates seven and eight of niche number four.
Later, the process is repeated with the rest of the gates in their respective niches to 27 metres, which is the level of Gatun Lake.
The lower chamber will receive per hour, about 50,000 cubic metres of water in five pipes of 0.90 metres in diameter. It is expected that all tests and inspections are to be completed in about four months. This will allow for the testing of the first gates. “With the addition of these water-savings basins, we will recycle nearly 60% of the water used in every lockage, using the world’s most advanced systems and enhancing the canal’s reliability. With this new phase, expansion nears closer and closer to completion,” said Quijano.
Among the most prominent features, each set of locks has eight rolling gates and nine water basins with a system of filling and emptying side.
The canal expansion records, at end of May, an overall progress of 89.8%.
Completely filling the lock will take several months, said Grupo Unidos Por el Canal, the consortium building the third set of locks. The construction began in 2007 and the works were scheduled to be completed in 2014, but it has seen repeated delays. Canal authorities plan to open the new locks to trade in the first quarter of 2016.
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