TWO ENORMOUS LOCKS
The key elements of this project are the two enormous locks, one on the Atlantic coast and the other on the Pacific coast. Work includes excavating and dredging the canal access on both sides for a total length of 11,2 km and a total width of 218 m. The Canal today has two lock lanes. The new project consists of adding a third lane through the construction of two lock facilities. Every new lock facility will have three consecutive chambers named lower, medium and upper chamber regulated by four sliding gates, designed to move the vessels from the sea level to the level of Gatun lake (27 m) and backdown again. Each chamber will have three lateral water reutilization basins for a total of 9 basins per lock and 18 basins in total. Like in the existing locks the new locks will be filled and emptied by gravity, without the use of pumps (200 million liters for each crossing). The new lock chambers will be 427 m long, 55 m wide and 18 m deep for a total length of 1,5 km. The two enormous reinforced concrete structures will be completed with a new canal access on the Pacific side. It will be the Italian company Cimolai, from Pordenone (Northern Italy), that will supply the new gates. Work will involve constructing 16 aluminium plate sliding gates, each one measuring 28 m in height, 58 m in length and 16 m in width.
The locks will be transported to Panama by sea and then installed on site between July 2013 and January 2014.
CUTTING-EDGE ADMIXTURES FOR DURABLE, LONG-LASTING CONCRETE
Mapei admixtures were selected to build all concrete structures including mass concrete as well as marine concrete, to be used to make the external sides and internal sides of the concrete locks, respectively. The latest generation in admixture technology was introduced, and will be used to make 5,500,000 m3 of concrete designed specifically for this grand structure. The aim is to ensure, through special tests on concrete, that the building will last 100 years. The first tests, carried out at the GUPC consortium site laboratory, started in Panama in September 2010.
Cement paste samples were tested to verify the compatibility and to find the best plasticizing capacity of various samples of admixture in combination with the types of cement scheduled to be used on the structure (CE-MEX cement, type II ASTM and Panama cement, type II ASTM).In the first phase of testing, to overcome problems which arise when using complex raw materials (basaltic aggregates and basaltic pozzolan), admixtures from many other competitors on the international market were also tested. After numerous checks, carried out in the purpose-built Mapei laboratory in Panama, and then by cross-referencing the results with the GUPC laboratory, in mid December the admixture DYNAMON XP2 was judged to be the only solution suitable for use with the materials which had been actually chosen and which will be used in future on both the Atlantic side, where they are using Panama cement, and on the Pacific side, where they are using CEMEX cement. This led to Mapei’s winning the Short Term Supply Contract. In early 2011, after starting production of the concrete and aggregates, several serious problems concerning a considerable loss of mechanical strength and durability in the concrete were solved thanks to the contribution of Mapei. In this phase, Mapei’s support was concentrated on various activities: a study and new chemical and mineralogical characterization of the raw materials used (fines and, pozzolan and cement); technical suggestions and advice to help make a correct choice for the flocculating and coagulating materials used to treat the water for cleaning the aggregates; a chemical and petrographic analysis and control of the pozzolanic activity of the fine basalt sand to reduce or optimize its content of natural pozzolan. Following a request from the client, Mapei then started to develop a new product which could work well with the new mix designs being verified at the GUPC laboratory. After an arduous competition, which included participants from our competitors, Mapei technicians managed to design a new, highly-evolved admixture called DYNAMON XP2 EVOLUTION 1, with the name chosen to give a sense of continuity to the enormous amount of work previously carried out on the old admixture. This product featured better maintenance of workability and application properties, in dosages even lower compared with the competitors. The 21st of December 2011 is the date of the final contract for the New Panama Canalproject. Formalised with the signatures of Giorgio Squinzi, CEO of the Mapei Group, and Bernardo Gonzales, Project Manager forGUPC, it represents a success story for Mapei. A victory which is the fruit of perfect teamwork and a consolidated modus operandi which included constant technical assistance on site to solve both large and small problems, and the decisive support of the Mapei Research & Development laboratories which investigated every material to find the most advanced technological solutions to make the best products.