Occupational Health & Safety

Panama Canal's Expansion on Track

The $5.25 billion project "will change the face of shipping as we know it and will bring positive benefits for all," Panama Canal Authority CEO Alberto Aleman Zubieta said Nov. 15 at the TOC Americas conference.

The $5.25 billion project to add a new traffic lane to the Panama Canal by 2014 is on track and "will change the face of shipping as we know it and will bring positive benefits for all -– from the suppliers [to the] logistics industry, shippers, retailers, and consumers," Panama Canal Authority CEO Alberto Aleman Zubieta said Nov. 15 at the Terminal Operations Conference & Exhibition Container Supply Chain: Americas 2011 (TOC America) held in Panama City.

Disease and accidents during the canal's original construction a century ago killed at least 5,600 people and possibly as many as 25,000, but the project is best known for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' eradication of yellow fever and diligent work to reduce deaths and illnesses caused by malaria, with Chief Sanitary Officer Dr. William Crawford Gorgas given much of the credit. Many historians have called the canal's construction the crowning technological achievement of the early 20th Century.

The authority announced Oct. 12 that it had completed phase three of the dry excavation project in the construction of the Pacific Access Channel, which will connect the third set of locks with the Culebra Cut and Gatun Lake. The third phase cost $36.6 million, involved the excavation of 8.2 million cubic meters of material, and was completed "within budget, on time and in compliance with strict environmental, safety, hygiene and quality standards," according to Zubieta.

The authority will showcase the engineering processes used in the expansion during the April 18-20, 2012, International Engineering and Infrastructure Congress in Panama, co-hosted by the authority and the American Society of Civil Engineers.

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