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THE EXPANSION


The basic cement is bought in Panama. Nonetheless, klinker is imported from Colombia by one of the local cement plants, which is then processed to produce the cement in Panama. GUPC also obtains pozzolan locally, which is mixed together with the cement, aggregates and additives to produce the concrete in accordance with the design accepted by the ACP. The concrete for the lower chamber requires the use of silica fume ‘to provide greater


Concrete pouring


included a significant amount of rebar (steel bars or rods used to reinforce concrete), to ultimately shape the 100cu mtr blocks that make up the lock floor – one of the most important stages of the project. ‘I don’t know of any other major public work that has this type of rebar concrete,’ says Gonzalez. ‘We have a long way to go with hard work ahead of us, but we are sure this project will proceed just as we planned it,’ Quijano says.


At the same time on the Pacific side, placing concrete also began with the construction of the pit for the first of three lock crossunders or tunnels. Through these crossunders, trays and pipes will carry communication, control and electric wires, potable water pipelines and other components needed to operate the lock complex. Each set of locks will have three crossunders. Each of the pits is built by stacking 16 blocks made of structural concrete and rebar. Twelve trucks, with capacity to carry 8cu mtr of concrete, are required to pour each of the blocks. The pits, at a height comparable to that of a 10-story building, will include stairs and an elevator that will enable access to the crossunder. Once completed, the crossunders will allow personnel to conduct their maintenance tasks in a safe environment.


The two $230m Atlantic and Pacific crushing plants had to be modified because the quality of basalt extracted during the excavations produced 30% sand – twice the 15% expected from the geological tests performed. The plants produce the different aggregates required for mixing


The gates to be used in the Atlantic locks will weigh 2,700 tonnes each, while those on the Pacific side will weigh 1,000 tonnes more because of more robust


seismic requirements and higher tides.


the concrete. A monthly average of 100,000 to 110,000cu mtr will be poured in each site from 20,000cu mtr to 100,000cu mtr to reach the ‘peak period’ starting February 2012 that will last for 14 months, explains Gonzalez.


impermeability and avoid sodium choride (CLNA) to penetration and damage to the lower chamber walls that are in contact with salt water, he says. ‘I feel confident that, except for the locks, all of the main expansion programme projects – will be completed by the fourth quarter of 2013,’ says Quijano. Along with the members of the consortium, the designers include the US’ Montgomery Watson Harza (MWH) as leader which ranks amongst the top international design firms listed by Engineering News Record (ENR) and the first in the design of water structures according to ENR; the IV Groep from Holland, and the consulting and engineering firm Tetra Tech. GUPC has awarded the fabrication of the gates – designed by IV Groep under the direction of Montgomery Watson Harza – to Italian shipyard and bridge builder Cimolai that began the fabrication of the gates in October 2011.


The 16 gates will take two years to be fabricated using 49,000 tonnes of steel, with dimensions of up to 57.6mtr x 10mtr x 33mtr and weighing up to 3,700 tonnes each. The gate design varies between the Pacific and Atlantic locks. The gates to be used in the Atlantic locks will weigh 2,700 tonnes each, while those on the Pacific side will weigh 1,000 tonnes more because of more robust seismic requirements and higher tides. The lock gates will be shipped via submersible heavy-lift


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