Crews move a steel rolling gate at the Panama Canal in Cocoli near Panama City, April 2015. Crews from the Panama Canal Authority supervised the installation of the last of 16 giant lock gates that are a key part of the waterway’s multibillion-dollar expansion.
The gates are made of steel, measure 187 by 105 by 33 feet, and weigh 8 million pounds apiece.
The construction of a larger, third set of locks using the new rolling gate mechanism will allow the passage of so-called post-Panamax vessels or container ships much too big to fit through the Panama Canal’s old locks. The expanded canal is expected to open later this spring. Turn to page 50 to learn about the impact the expansion will have on south Louisiana.
The rolling gates will move in and out of the gate recesses on two sets of wheels that roll along supports and crane rails located along the recesses and the bed of the lock. Operated by a winch and motor system, the gates are pulled forward or backwards out of or into recesses by means of thick wire ropes, allowing the lock chamber to be filled and emptied.
Pre-expansion, about 14,000 vessels carrying 5% of the world’s ocean cargo—280 million tons—passed through the waterway each year.