The project to deepen and widen the Canal’s Pacific entrance channel will ensure that longer, wider ships can reach the new locks. The work will include the dredging of approximately 9.1m cubic metres of material and will widen the 8.9 mile-long navigation channels by at least 218 m and deepen them to a maximum level of 15.5 m Mean Low Water Springs (MLWS).
“The Pacific entrance dredging is integral to expansion and the construction of the new lane. The Pacific side’s geological characteristics make it more challenging than the Atlantic side. We will need a firm with the specialised equipment and experience to meet the demands of the project,” said ACP project administration division manager John Langman. Bids are due by January 28, 2008, and the ACP will make its choice based on a combination of best value and individual consultations with bidding firms.
The second RFP is for the second of five dry excavation projects to create the new Pacific locks access channel. This channel will link the new Pacific locks with the existing Gaillard Cut, the narrowest stretch of the Canal. The excavation involves the removal of 7.5m cubic metres of material in a stretch of approximately 2.4 km, which will serve as the entrance of the new access channel.
The work includes the construction of a new section of road and a new crossing over the Cocoli River, in addition to the removal and/or relocation of electrical utilities, telecommunication lines, water lines, sanitation lines, ducts and sewers. Proposals for this contract are due by October 31, 2007.
At the end of September, the Canal marked the completion of a project to replace all its locomotive towing tracks. Locomotives play a pivotal role in the operation of the Canal’s locks: tow tracks parallel to each side of the lock chambers enable locomotive ‘mules’ to move alongside transiting vessels and to maintain their position during their passage through the locks, by means of wire cables.
“Well-run locks are critical to providing our customers with a safe, reliable and efficient service. Ultimately, our goal in rehabilitating these tracks is to decrease the time a vessel spends in each lockage, increasing efficiency and augmenting capacity,” said ACP vice president of operations Manuel Benitez.
This is the first time the ACP has overhauled its entire rail system; in total, it has replaced 50,000 ft of tow track. The new track, laid at the Miraflores, Pedro Miguel and Gatun Locks, is purpose-designed for the ACP’s new locomotives and will require much less maintenance than the old tracks.