Crowley Maritime Corp.’s heavy lift barge 455 4 has delivered the first in a series of new gates for the ongoing Panama Canal expansion.
The first gate to be transferred to the Pacific side is the smallest, standing 22 meters tall and weighing 2,300 tons, according to Panama Canal Authority.
The height of each gate depends on its position inside the lock chambers. The tallest ones (33 meters 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 tons.
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 first shipment arrived on August 20, 2013. The second and third shipment arrived on June 10, 2014 and September 7, 2014, respectively.
The last shipment has already departed from Italy and is expected to arrive in November 2014.
Crowley is scheduled to help transport all eight of the gates involved in the Pacific side lock expansion of the Canal.
The 455 4 was contracted by Sarens, a Belgium-based heavy lift company, to transport the gates from Cristóbal, a port on the Atlantic side of the Canal, to Grupo Unidos por el Canal, SA’s (GUPC SA) construction dock, which was built to receive the gates on the canal’s Pacific side.
The 105-foot wide barge, currently the largest capable of transiting the Canal, was towed by Panama Canal Authority (ACP) tugs and made the transit in only one day.
In cooperation with Sarens and the Panama Canal Authority (PCA), the barge is scheduled to transport another gate in October followed by three more in both November and December.
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.
The Canal expansion project involves widening the channel and adding a third set of locks, one set on the Pacific and the other on the Atlantic side. The expansion project is 80 percent complete.
It consists on the construction of a third lane of traffic allowing the passage of bigger vessels, which will double the Canal’s capacity and have an important impact on world maritime trade.