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Panama Canal Expansion - Third Set of Locks

Updating an engineering wonder for the 21st century

Panama Canal, Panama

The Panama Canal Authority had to decide: modernize or risk becoming a tourist attraction. Their existing canals were too small to accommodate the ships that currently traversed the ocean. The solution? Build a third set of locks.

We formed a global team of engineers to design the world’s largest lock system. The new locks are longer, deeper, and wider, with the ability to transport ships three times larger than the existing locks. There’s a single lane of traffic that had to meet a 99.6% reliability, while also meeting a design requirement of 100 years. It also had to withstand seismic loads of 0.72g.

Lake Gatun is the primary fresh water source for the Panamanian community, so the project had to be sustainable and environmentally conscious. The new design incorporated the world’s largest water saving basins resulting in 60% of the fresh water being reused per transit. And, the new gates used 7% less water than the existing locks.

Now an estimated 95% of the container fleet can use the world’s largest short cut, revolutionizing world trade. 

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