In addition to the exisiting locks, the two new installations on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts repectively, will effectively double the capacity of the Panama canal.
Canal de Panamá–Ampliación In addition to the exisiting locks, the two new installations on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts repectively, will effectively double the capacity of the Panama canal.

The expansion of the Panama Canal is the largest construction site in the world, and upon completion in 2014, will have cost about $5 billion. The centerpieces of this monumental project are two enormous lock installations on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

Increase in capacity

The goal of this enormous construction project is to double the capacity of the world’s most important waterway, exactly 100 years after the first vessel passed through it in August 1914. After completion of the new lock installations—Gatun on the Atlantic in the north and Miraflores on the Pacific in the south—so-called post-Panamax container ships will be able to also use the 80-km-long channel. These vessels can measure up to 366 meters long and 49 meters wide, holding more than 10,000 containers.

Two huge lock installations

Each lock has a length of 1.5 kilometers and feature very unusual dimensions. By means of three lock chambers positioned one behind the other, ships overcome a 26-meter height difference, controlled by four lock gates. The structure also will feature a new access channel on the Pacific side and nine enormous water-saving basins positioned parallel to the locks.

Spanish contractor Sacyr Vallehermoso, Impregilo from Italy, Jan de Nul from Belgium, and Panama-based Constructora Urbana are jointly responsible for the construction. Over a period of three years, a total of 4,000,000 cubic meters of concrete and 340,000 tons of steel will be required, including an area of about 2,000,000 square meters that must be formed.

Playing a key role

Formwork plays a crucial role in the massive construction of this project. Formwork supplier PERI Formwork Systems Inc., Elkridge, Md., is planning and supplying the formwork and scaffolding systems. With an order value of $24 million, this is the largest individual contract in the company’s 40-year history.

An international team of engineers from PERI subsidiaries in Spain, Panama, and Italy, as well as from company headquarters in Weissenhorn, Germany, earned the project through a combination of formwork expertise, efficiency, and ability to deliver, along with innovative equipment. The manufacturer’s products used on the project include VARIO girder wall formwork and TRIO panel formwork for forming the massive structural elements. Its SKS Single-Sided Climbing System will be used to progressively advance the formwork.

PERI Spain and a PERI subsidiary in Panama, founded in 2008, are responsible for formwork planning, logistics, and onsite assistance, supported by the company’s headquarters. Currently, three 40-foot containers leave one of the PERI logistics and production facilities on a daily basis heading for Central America. This means that by the end of June, more than 300 containers filled with formwork and scaffolding materials will have been delivered, which will save time and provide cost advantages during the construction of the massive reinforced concrete components.