Panama Canal Expansion

The expansion of the Panama Canal project is underway and is being overseen by the Panama Canal Authority (ACP). The project will double the capacity of the Canal by 2014 allowing more and larger ships to pass through. The project will create a new lane of traffic along the Canal by constructing a new set of locks, one on the Atlantic side and another on the Pacific side, each with three chambers, which includes three water-saving basins.

Richard Goettle, Inc., based in Cincinnati, OH, is a key member of the construction team and Hammer and Steel was a primary pile driving equipment supplier to Goettle. Steve Snyder, of H&S's Green Cove Springs, FL branch, was a key reason, along with H&S's reputation for providing reliable equipment and excellent field service support, for Goettle choosing H&S to provide a significant portion of their pile driving equipment requirements.

As 40 vessels travel the Panama Canal daily, the existing dimension of the locks are 110 ft wide X 1,050 ft long, and a usable length of 1,000 ft. The new lane will be 1,400 ft long and 180 ft wide, allowing post Panamax vessels, or vessels that were previously too large to transgress the Canal, to be able to circumnavigate through the new locks, expeditiously.

To accommodate this project, excavation of new access channels to the new locks is required, along with widening and dredging of existing navigational channels to allow maximum elevation of Gatun Lake operating level.

The expansion was divided into 5 contracts. ICA -FCC-MECO was awarded the PAC 4 contract, which was the largest at $268 million. GOETTLE-ICONSA, a 50-50 joint venture of Goettle and Ingenieria Continental, SA (ICONSA) of Panama, was selected as its subcontractor for construction of the necessitated cofferdams, consisting of 58 circular cells, 49 in water and 9 on land. Gerdau Ameristeel supplied PS 31 flat sheets for the circular cells and PZC 26 Z profile for a steel sheet piling wall.

Goettle requested H&S to aid in the selection of hammers used to drive the PS 31 flat sheets as 56-69 ft lengths. Setting of the sheets utilized the use of a 4,400 in lb vibratory hammer that drove the sheets to a subsurface hard layer. When the dense soils no longer allowed for the productive advancement of the sheets with the vibro, it was determined the use of 5 Dawson HPH 1800 double acting hydraulic impact hammers, fitted with specific flat sheet inserts to accommodate the centering of the hammers over the interlocks, and specially designed spreader plates that afforded maximum coverage over the sheets, would best accommodate Goettle's requirements. Stiff clays and dense granular material are ideal driving conditions for the Dawson impact hammers, especially where vibratory hammers meet significant resistance.

Hammer & Steel provided onsite installation, field service, and parts, and, while dealing with language barriers, worked with the locals to provide training and maintenance procedures so that down time was reduced to a minimum.

The last pile was driven ahead of schedule, with great pride from the joint venture of GOETTLE /ICONSA crew, so that the excavation for the Borinquen Dam can begin.
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