Risk and Reward

Panama Canal renovation complete

The history of the Panama Canal is littered with obstacles, risk, and ultimately triumph. Its centennial anniversary and expansion project are officially no different. The renovation that took two years more than anticipated—and exceeded the initial budget by almost five billion dollarswas finally completed this week, and as natives of the country and investors both celebrate, their remains a quiet foreboding at the element of financial and infrastructural risk.

Panamanian officials hope that the massive 102 year-old structure will double the amount of cargo traveling to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The renovation has been the largest infrastructure project since the waterway’s original construction in 1914. A new system of locks will increase the waterway’s capacity – and of course, commemorate the landmark’s centennial. Call it a centennial-and-one. Plus one.

Part of the newly constructed Panama Canal expansion project runs to the left of the Miraflores locks along the Panama Canal on April 7, 2016 in Panama City, Panama.—Photo credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Part of the newly constructed Panama Canal expansion project runs to the left of the Miraflores locks along the Panama Canal on April 7, 2016 in Panama City, Panama.—Photo credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Most likely, the troubling systems responsible for delays are those that serve to operate the chambers and lock systems being renovated, which include water-saving basins, lateral filling and emptying systems, and rolling gates. These components were documented in a November 2015 report on the project (which marked it at 95% complete). At this point, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) said that the “final electro-mechanical installations are underway.” The group also had to deal with structural cracking. In August, a large crack was detected in one of the chambers of the new lock complexes, which was attributed to an insufficient steel reinforcement in the area while being subjected to stress from extreme condition testing.

Following this, Administrator Jorge Quijano assured the public of progress and near-completion in an interview with the Miami Herald on December 15. He had addressed the leakages and acknowledged that there was “a lot” of electromechanical work still ahead, alone with design modifications to a majority of the new lock sills being completed. Quijano had projected mid-January as a finishing point, but obviously, large projects like this require intricate attention to detail that may concede additional downtime. Re-testing (which Quijano had also foreseen as a necessary precaution) was performed on schedule and found a few additional tweaks that are now being rectified.

The Panama Canal Authority has also reported completion of sill reinforcements in the new locks. By 2021, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) is hoping the project will bring in $2.1 billion per year in added revenue, representing 2.8 percent of gross domestic product. The Panama Canal project had one of the largest and most extensive electrical installations in the world early in the 1900s. They originally used over 1000 electric motors with an installed capacity of about 28,000 horsepower to control their locks, valves, and more from a central location. Below is a video documenting the original canal construction, in the spirit of Throwback Thursday.

Regardless of oncoming risks, the Panama Canal’s legacy is one mighty feat of engineering.

Advertisements

No comments yet... Be the first to leave a reply!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: