Expansion of the Panama Canal – Third set of locks

Name of Project:

Expansion of the Panama Canal – Third set of locks


Autoridad del Canal de Panama - ACP

Total value:
€3,356 million, share €1,288 million

Construction period:
2009 - 2016

The project involves the construction of a new canal which, complementing the existing one, will allow the transit of larger ships, increasing commercial traffic in response to developments and the continued expansion of the shipping transport market.

The construction of the third set of locks for the canal will allow the passage of larger ships known as Post Panamax with a capacity of up to 12,600 TEUs, a length of 366 metres, a width of 49 metres and a draught of 15 metres.
The current system of locks allows the passage of Panamax type ships, with a capacity of 5,000 TEUs, a maximum length of 294 metres, a maximum width of 32 metres and a draught of 12 metres.
Specifically, the project involves the construction of two triple step locks: one triple step lock on the Atlantic side and one of the Pacific side.
These locks will allow ships to be raised from the level of the oceans to the Gatun Lake (midway between the two oceans) and vice versa, in less than two hours.
Each of the three chambers which make up each lock is 55 metres wide, 427 metres long and 23-33 metres deep, and they are equipped with horizontally sliding sluice systems which can overcome the existing difference in level of approximately 27 metres between the oceans and Lake Gatun.

Lock Gates
The efficient and safe operation of the locks is regulated and guaranteed by horizontally sliding gates which (similar to the “mitre”-type gates of the existing locks) involve tried and tested technology and are used in installations of this type.
These lock gates, operated by electric winches, take approximately 3-4 minutes to open/close the locks.
The dimensions of these lock gates are impressive,  23-33 metres tall, approximately 10 metres wide and approximately 58 metres long.

Environmental impact: water saving basins and water re-utilisation
Research conducted has led to an environmentally and socially sustainable development strategy aimed at reducing the impact on the area, the environment and the population.
Special attention has been paid from the design stage onwards to reducing water consumption from the Gatun Lake during the transit stages.
A new system was designed for this purpose, known as water saving basins, which allows the recovery and partial re-utilisation of the water from the Gatun Lake through the introduction of auxiliary basins. This has resulted in a 60% water saving and transit which would require the use of approximately 500 million litres of water can now take place with approximately 200 million litres.

Dredging: 7,100,000 m³
Excavations: 74,000,000 m³
Backfilling: 18,000,000 m³
Concrete: 5,000,000 m³
Cement: 1,600,000 tons
Steel reinforcements: 290,000 tons
Steel used for the sluice gates and for the valves: 71,000 tons
Buildings (96 units): 40,000 m²
ampliamento canale panama

Last update: 13/12/2018