Heavy lift barge brings Panama Canal expansion one step closer

Heavy lift barge brings Panama Canal expansion one step closer

The first in a series of new gates for the ongoing Panama Canal expansion have been successfully delivered by Crowley Maritime Corp.’s heavy lift barge 455 4. 

The barge was contracted by Sarens, a Belgium-based heavy lift company, to transport the gates from Cristóbal, a port on the Atlantic side of the Canal, to Grupo Unidos por el Canal, SA’s (GUPC SA) construction dock, which was built to receive the gates on the canal’s Pacific side.

The Canal expansion project involves widening the channel and adding a third set of locks, one set on the Pacific and the other on the Atlantic side.  The new locks require 16 gates which, when complete, will increase efficiency and allow larger, post-Panamax ships, and extended width barges to travel through the Canal.  In the past, vessels were designed with the Canal’s size limitations in mind.

Crowley Maritime Corp. is scheduled to help transport all eight of the gates involved in the Pacific side lock expansion of the Canal – a project that when coupled with the Atlantic side expansion will create a new lane of vessel traffic and double the waterway’s capacity.  The 105-foot wide 455 4, currently the largest capable of transiting the Canal, was towed by Panama Canal Authority (ACP) tugs and made the transit in only one day.

Uniquely suited for the job, 455 4 is one in a series of eight high deck strength barges in Crowley’s fleet able to handle uniform loads up to 4,200 pounds per square foot.  In cooperation with Sarens and the Panama Canal Authority (PCA), the barge is scheduled to transport four more gates before the end of the year.

Prior to the move, Jensen Maritime, Crowley’s Seattle-based marine engineering and naval architecture firm, worked with Sarens to perform a professional peer review of Sarens’ strength and stability calculations related to the barge and voyage.