How Does The Panama Canal Work

How Does The Panama Canal Work - Merchant Navy Info - Blog

The Panama Canal length is one of the world’s largest man-made waterways, connecting the Atlantic and also Pacific oceans. It runs through the Isthmus of Panama, the narrow strip that separates the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The construction of the 77 km long Panama Canal. Completed in August 1914, reduced the sailing distance for ships traveling. Between the east and also west coasts of the United States by 15,000 km. Similarly, the canal will save up to 3,700 km of range for ships sailing between Europe and also East Asia. Today, the Panama Canal locks play an important role in the U.S. economy. As the majority of U.S. shipping passes through it. In  2017,  a total of 13,548 vessels passed through the canal. Carrying 403.8 million tons of cargo through the Panama Canal. 

Geographically, the oceans that the Panama Canal locks connect are not at the same level. The Pacific Ocean is a bit slightly higher than the Atlantic Ocean. This difference in sea level requires ships to overcome Panama’s terrain up to 26 meters above the sea level. To reach the opposite end of the canal. With the help of locks, ships entering the canal are raised to a higher level and also then lowered to sea level at the opposite end of the canal. The  Panama Water Lock System is considered one of the greatest engineering achievements of its time and was also designed to meet ships’ needs to save navigation time.

Panama Canal Locks Design 

The Panama Canal Lock System consists of a total of three sets of locks (12 locks) to facilitate the transportation of ships between the Atlantic and also Pacific Oceans via artificial lakes and canals. It has been. Prior to the canal expansion completed in 2016, the canal had two lines and two sets of locks at each end of the canal. The expansion of the canal allowed him to create a third lane and his third row of locks, allowing larger ships to enter. The Atlantic and Pacific locks are used to access the Panama Canal length, which is 26 meters above sea level. 

Types of Panama Canal

The lock system on the Pacific side includes the two-chamber Miraflores Lock and the one-chamber Pedro Miguel Lock, and the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal locks includes the three-chamber Gatun Lock. These three sets of locks are paired, so each of the three lock positions has two parallel lock passages, allowing ships to move in opposite directions at the same time. However, in reality, only six pairs of huge locks are currently used by ships to navigate, and for safety reasons, ships can only move in one direction at a time to cross the Culebra Cut. This also means that ships are currently only using both lanes of the lock to move in one direction.

The original Panama Canal lockslocks are 33.53 meters (110 ft) wide, and each lock is 320 meters (1,050 ft) long. The walls of each lock range from 15 meters (bottom) to 3 meters (top) in thickness. The size of the locks determines the size of ships, also known as Panamax, that can pass through the canal. Her third lock system, which opened after the expansion project, allows larger ships to pass through the canal. The new Panamax metric with new locks allows the use of vessels with an overall length of 366 meters, a width of 49 meters, and draft of 15.2 meters. The total lift of the locks, i.e. the ability to raise and also lower the ship, is Gatun Locks – 85 feet, Pedro Miguel Locks – 54 feet, Miraflores Locks – due to extreme tidal currents, she is between 64.5 feet and 43 feet.

Panama Canal lock 

Gates separate rooms and are strong enough to hold thousands of liters of water. The locks fill and empty within 10 minutes, and each pair of locks takes 2 minutes to open. Panama Lock measures 14.33 to 24.99 meters and is 2.13 meters thick. Each gate has two wings with a width of 19.81 meters. These wings are V-shaped, with their tips upstream, allowing the sluice to withstand the force of the water. The gate will only open if the water level on both sides is the same. At the end of each lock is an approximately 30,000-pound fender chain that prevents vessels from colliding with the gate before it opens. For a ship to pass through a lock, each chamber must be filled with 26,700,000 US gallons of water.

The locks operate using the gravity flow of water from lakes such as Gatun, Alajuela, and Miraflores. Lock systems are connected to 18-foot-wide culverts that serve to transport water from these lakes to chambers for raising ships and from chambers for lowering ships to the next lock or the sea. The entire process of the lock system is electrically operated and controlled from a control room located in the center wall of the upper lock corridor. The control room guides the ship through the locked room with an electric tug locomotive. These machines, called “mules,” are used to pull ships through locks using cables. On average, a ship requires six such mules, three on each side,  to enter and exit a canal using locks.

Panama Canal Locks Operation 

The overall operation of the Panama Locks system can be explained in several steps.

  1. The ship approaches the lower chamber of the canal lock.
  2. The valve in the first chamber opens, and gravity causes water to flow from the highest chamber to the lowest chamber, bringing the water level to sea level.
  3. A locked gate opens, allowing the ship to enter the room, and the gate closes behind it.
  4. Open the valve of the next chamber to raise the water level to the level of the first chamber.
  5. The lock gate will open, and the ship will enter the next room.
  6. The water levels equalize again, and the ship finally leaves the lock and enters the 77 km-long canal. Similar work will be carried out on the other side of the canal to lower the ship to sea level.
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