Panama Canal

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Smooth sailing in massive Panama Canal expansion thanks to 99.99% machine availability

For its 100-year anniversary in 2014, the Panama Canal Authority is modernizing and expanding the canal between the Atlantic and Pacific. The construction includes the installation of new locks, each with three lock chambers. Bosch Rexroth’s contribution includes an ingenious automated system that maintains 99.99% machine availability, while reducing water consumption by 7%.

 

Tough application

Development of a hydraulic system solution to the modernization of the Panama Canal

Ingenious solution

Plan, construct and commission 158 customer specific hydraulic units and drive cylinders to operate the water- regulating wheel gates and ensure a smooth execution

Result

The hydraulic system solutions guarantee a smooth flow of traffic on one of the world’s busiest waterways, with an availability of 99.99%

 
 

When the Panama Canal began operating in 1914, steamships and sailing ships still ruled the seas. Modern drive systems have also seen the size of ships increase to the point that 60% of the world’s merchant fleet now no longer fit through the canal. Bosch Rexroth was chosen as one of the partners planning and constructing the new solution. A selection based on the company’s experience gained in a broad variety of major civil engineering projects, as well as its global production network.

Plan, construct, and commission 158 hydraulic units and drive cylinder

In 2010 Bosch Rexroth contracted with South Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries (HSHI), the supplier of the steel construction for the wheel gates. Together they planned, constructed and commissioned 158 customer-specific hydraulic units and drive cylinders to operate the water-regulating wheel gates. The project involves a team of drive and control specialists comprising a host of skills and production capacities from Germany, the Netherlands, China, South Korea and the USA.

New locks conserve regional water supply

The new lock design is aimed at conserving resources. Each lock chamber sins via communicating pipes.

To lift the ships, the Rexroth drives open the corresponding inlets and the water from the water-saving basins fills the lock chambers using gravity. Unlike the previous technology, the water flows back into the basins once the lock operation is complete. Only 40% of the water required for one lock operation comes from the man-made Gatun Lake.

By contrast, the existing locks take the entire amount of water required from the lake and then empty all of it into the sea.

Required water for one lock operation 40%

Despite the considerably larger lock chambers, this means the expansion reduces consumption of fresh water by 7% compared with the existing locks, ensuring the regional water supply is conserved in a sustainable way.

High demands on availability of the automation solution

With an availability of 99.99%, the new automation solution will guarantee a smooth flow of traffic on one of the world’s busiest waterways. Over the course of 100,000 operating hours the total downtime is less than four hours. Furthermore, due to the new, expanded locks ships up to 366 m long and 49 m wide are able to pass the canal and thus save on travel time, costs and CO2 emissions.

After a construction period lasting three years, the official opening is scheduled to take place in its anniversary year of 2014.

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Facts

  • 158 customer specific hydraulic units and drive cylinders
  • Availability of 99.99% guarantees a smooth flow of traffic
  • Ships up to 366 m long and 49 m wide are now able to pass
  • Resource conserving design
  • New solution reduces water consumption by 7%
  • Over the course of 100,000 operating hours, total downtime must be less than four hours