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Panama Canal expansion moves forward

The Panama Canal Expansion project is now 50 percent complete, according to the Panama Canal Authority (ACP).


"The program continues to progress and reach milestones while we focus the next phases on building the locks," commented Panama Canal administrator Jorge L Quijano.


Quijano stated that dredging of the navigational channels has been completed, including both canal entrances on the Pacific and Atlantic sides as well as the Gaillard Cut. The remaining dredging work to be done in the Gatun Lake will be completed this year.


Excavation of the Pacific lock access channel is 70 percent complete – the project has called for the excavation of more than 50 million cu m of materials along a 6.1 km span of the canal.


Construction of the new locks is 37 percent complete, according to ACP. The locks on the Atlantic and Pacific sides of the canal will feature three chambers, three water-saving basins per chamber, a lateral filling and emptying system and rolling gates.


"We estimate based on the progress that we can begin commercial transits mid-2015," stated Quijano.


The capacity of the canal will be doubled upon completion of the USD5.25 billion project. However HLPFI reported in December that this is unlikely to be the last expansion of the waterway – Alberto Alemán Zubieta, immediate past commissioner of the ACP commented that one more expansion would be required to handle 18,000 teu ships.