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Panama Canal

Panama Canal


The Panama Canal, connecting the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean is 77 km long, it was one of the most challenging engineering projects ever undertaken.

It has changed the seafaring trade because it prevents ships sailing around Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America and provides a shortcut of 13,000 km with a travel time of 5 to 9 hours!

A book kept in history

With their prowess from the Suez Canal, French engineers, led by Ferdinand de Lesseps, then Gustave Eiffel, attempt to achieve the task at the end of the nineteenth century, but in 1889, following various disappointments, coupled with a political and financial problems the Company goes bankrupt. The United States resumed the work under the direction of G.W. Goethals, and the canal opened on August 15, 1914.

A veritable epic, the construction encountered numerous events, from epidemics of malaria and yellow fever to landslides, and would have cost the lives of nearly 30,000 workers.
The canal area remained under American administration until 1979, when it was returned to Panama.

Strategic importance

From its opening, the canal has been a huge success. With the rising price of petroleum products, it remains a strategic crossing point for shipping, especially freight. 14,000 ships, carrying more than 300 million tons of cargo annually.
Canal widening work was launched in 2007 to accommodate larger ships. Indeed, the largest ships in the canal are referred to as "Panamax"; however, an increasing number of ships exceeds this size: at the end of 2011, with 600 post-panamax, the world fleet is made up of 37% of boats that cannot use the current channel.

The technical device and the 3rd set of locks

The canal consists of two artificial lakes, Gatún and Alajuela lakes, and locks into which ships are towed by locomotives. They are used in pairs: two parallel series of locks are located on each of the three sites, allowing in principle the passage of ships simultaneously in both directions. In practice, the traffic is alternated and the two lanes of the locks are used only in one direction at a time.

The current development project involves the construction of a third set of locks.

They will have sliding doors, doubled for security, and will be 427 meters long, 55 meters wide, and 18.3 meters deep, allowing for the transit of 49 m long, 386 meters long and wide vessels. a draft of 15 m, a 12 000 TEU container ship.

Water and rock: The Dialog PVD for corner stone

The construction of the new locks involves two critical operations, which consist of treating the land to seal the canals, to prevent the flow of water from one to the other, and to consolidate the land that will accommodate the new locks. in smaller numbers, but larger in size. Engineers thus fill the natural cracks of the rock by injecting cement.
JEAN LUTZ has equipped the injection pumps with DIALOG PVD. These determine the precise location where it will be necessary to drill, and control the pumps, automatically adapting the quantity and the injection speed, up to 35 meters deep. The pressure is controlled by DIALOG nearly 80 times per second.

If this material was chosen, it is to answer two major technical constraints, increased with difficult climatic conditions (humidity and heat). On the one hand, extreme reliability: the work advances 24hours a day 6 days a week, a delay caused by any breakdown would result in a significant additional cost. The injection points are widely scattered over the construction site area, and therefore constantly moving from one position to another, it is impossible to use cables therefore the radio transmission system was adopted.

Each DIALOG drives 4 injection points. 12 transceivers transmit information via radio to the control room linked to DIALOG.

The injection is operated according to the so-called apparent lugeon method, a technique widely used across the Atlantic, which calculates in real time the permeability of the terrain.

An engineer went to install the 3 DIALOGs on the construction site. Once the instrumentation was in place, he not only trained the operators, but he also presented the device to the US supervisory body, URS, which ensures the standards of each stakeholder on this colossal site to the thousand sub- contractors.