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Panama Canal Expansion - Third Set of Locks

Updating an engineering wonder for the 21st century

  • 8M

    Pounds Per Gate

  • 60%

    Fresh Water Reused

  • 4.3M

    Cubic Meters of Concrete

  • Panama


Accommodating more ships with a third set of locks

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 diverse global team of engineers to design the world’s largest lock system, and—using building information modeling (BIM) technology—the team was able to collaborate efficiently. The shared models helped resolve design conflicts prior to construction, saving time and money. 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 percent 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 percent of the fresh water being reused per transit. And, the new gates used seven percent less water than the existing locks.

Now an estimated 95 percent of container ships can use the world’s largest shortcut, revolutionizing world trade. 

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