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Expanding Upon History at the Panama Canal

Four Putzmeister boom pumps were brought in to help build the walls of the new locks, which will reach a height of 60 feet (18m).

Upon completion, Putzmeister America, Inc. concrete pumping and material placing equipment will have helped the crew at the massive Panama Canal Third Set of Locks project place approximately 4.9 million cubic yards (4.5 million m3) of concrete, in addition to gravel.

The boom pumps are being used to place a special, marine mix precisely where it needs to go to keep the salt water from permeating the structure.

Thom-Katt® TK 40 shotcrete machines spray concrete to reinforce the recently excavated walls.

Four Thom-Katt® TK 40 shotcrete machines are at Third Set of Locks, being used to stabilize excavation work on both the Atlantic and Pacific sides of the project.

Twelve Telebelt 130’s are building the bottom portion of the locks using massive aggregate and gravel.

Expanding Upon History at the Panama Canal

Multiple pieces of Putzmeister equipment sent to The Panama Canal Third Set of Locks project to help place massive amount of concrete

Upon completion, Putzmeister America, Inc. concrete pumping and material placing equipment will have helped the crew at the massive Panama Canal Third Set of Locks project (Third Set of Locks) place approximately 4.9 million cubic yards (4.5 million m3) of concrete, in addition to gravel. The Third Set of Locks will create a new third lane of traffic for the Canal, doubling its capacity and allowing more traffic and longer, wider ships to pass through.

Historical Perspective
Originally built in 1914, just 20 years later there was already a need for the Canal’s capacity to be increased. It was determined the most effective and efficient way to do this was to construct a third set of locks with larger dimensions. In 1939, the United States initiated the construction of the Third Set of Locks to allow the transit of commercial and war ships that exceeded the size of the existing locks, however, the expansion was ceased in 1942 because of the outbreak of World War II.

Although the project was suspended, the need for an increased capacity at the Canal had not diminished. In recent years, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP), owner/developer of the project, conducted studies that pointed to the same solution as was proposed more than 70 years ago—that a larger, third set of locks would be best way to reach their objective.

Third Set of Locks
To attain their economic and industry goals, ACP’s primary initiative was the construction of two 1,400-foot (427m) long by 180-foot (55m) wide by 60-foot (18m) deep lock facilities. One is being constructed in the Atlantic side and one in the Pacific side of the Canal. Each of the locks will have three chambers, and each chamber will have three water reutilization basins. The basins will allow the third set of locks to reutilize 60 percent of the water in each transit and use seven percent less water per transit than each of the existing lock lanes.

The design-build contract for the project was awarded to Consortium Grupo Unidos por el Canal (GUPC), which is made up of four companies: Sacyr Vallehermoso S.A., Impregilo S.p.A., Jan De Nul n.v., and Constructora Urbana. In conjunction with Putzmeister, Agreconsa S.A. is serving as the local dealer for 24/7 parts, service and support in Panama. Representatives from Agreconsa monitor each machine regularly to guarantee performance and customer satisfaction. Additionally, they keep a large inventory of spare parts both on site and at their own facility to assure the project continues to progress.

Building a Foundation
Early on, Putzmeister and its Special Applications Business (SAB), a team of experienced engineers, consultants, and industry experts in concrete placement, worked closely with the planning team to determine what material placing solutions Putzmeister SAB could offer the Third Set of Locks project.

“SAB focuses on the synergies of Putzmeister’s family of products, which includes concrete pumping equipment, Telebelt® telescopic belt conveyors, Putzmeister Shotcrete Technology and Putzmeister Pipe Technology, in addition to a partnership with Maxon Industries, Incorporated,” says Bob Weiglein, Telebelt division manager for Putzmeister America. “This partnership provides a complete systems approach that offers a wide range of complementary products to projects around the world in the tunnel, mining, dams, power generation, transportation, marine and offshore industries.”

To begin placement of concrete on the bottom portion of the locks, six TB 130’s were sent to the site in August 2010. After the initial use of the TB 130’s in the rough conditions of the Panama Canal job site, GUPC realized the opportunity to lower their overall costs of concrete placement by bringing in additional Putzmeister equipment. In early 2012, they ordered six more Telebelt TB 130’s for the Third Set of Locks. The additional Telebelts have helped the team stay on track with the aggressive pour schedule.

“The Telebelts are true multi-taskers and have been crucial in laying the foundation for this project,” says Lucio Donadi, service manager for Agreconsa. “With their help, we are quickly finishing the bottom portion of the new locks.”

Putzmeister will be sending its Telebelt® TB 200 to the Third Set of Locks later this year. With a reach of 200 feet (61m), belt width of 24 inches (610mm) and high capacity output of up to 5 yd3/min (4m3/min), the TB 200 is the company’s newest, most advanced Telebelt. It will be beneficial for reaching the tallest portion of the lock walls, and will allow for even quicker placement of material.

Working in conjunction with the Telebelts, six Putzmeister Jumbo Troughs are also at Third Set of Locks serving as surge hoppers for consistent concrete placement.

Four Thom-Katt® TK 40 shotcrete machines are also on site, being used to stabilize excavation work on both the Atlantic and Pacific sides of the project.

“While excavating the job site, it is essential to stabilize the soil walls to ensure safety moving forward,” explains Donadi. “The efficiency and ease of use of the TK 40s have been highly beneficial in this process.”

Maneuvering Challenging Terrain
While Telebelts have been used for the bottom of the locks, three Putzmeister 58-Meter and one 52-Meter Truck-Mounted Concrete Boom Pumps were brought in to help build the walls. Two boom pumps are working on each side of the project.

The terrain at the Third Set of Locks has been one of the most difficult aspects of the project.

“On either side of the Canal, we are dealing with two very different types of land,” explains Weiglein. “While we’ve encountered land slides and unstable soil on the Atlantic side, the Pacific side is rock, which has caused a host of other problems.”

Overall, the construction team has been pleased with how the equipment has managed to maneuver the rugged terrain.

“All of the Putzmeister equipment has been performing to our expectations under the difficult conditions,” says Donadi. “However, when we have encountered any challenges, the service and support from Putzmeister has been excellent.”

Bearing a Difficult Load
In addition to the land conditions, the concrete mix used at Third Set of Locks also has proved tough to work with. One of the main mixes used to create the foundation for the locks is a Mass Aggregate, with an aggregate size from 1.5-3 inches (38-76mm), which is an extremely hard-wearing concrete and can be rough on equipment. The Telebelts have been successful in placing the mix.

“Telebelts have proven to be the ideal equipment for this job, as they can place multiple types of material,” explains Donadi.

Another type of concrete, called Marine, is a pumpable mix that is being used with the boom pumps. The Marine concrete is a special mix used for any part of the locks that comes into contact with water. In addition to compressive strength and contraction, the concrete had to be formulated to guarantee at least a 100-year life span with low permeability. This is to ensure the imbedded rebar is not reached by water, which would cause it to corrode.

“The boom pumps have worked great for placing the marine concrete because of the accuracy and precision required to place the mix exactly where it needs to go,” says Donadi. “The Ergonic Boom Control has been especially helpful because it allows us to set parameters that control the movement boom.”

“Putzmeister’s standard hard-chromed material cylinders, as well as exclusive multi-piston cup design, ensure a longer life of the components, less downtime and lower parts cost,” adds Weiglein. “This results in reliable pumping of hard-wearing concrete in tough conditions like we’ve seen here at the Canal.”

Demanding Pour Schedule
The sheer size of the Third Set of Locks project has added unique difficulty to the placement of the massive amount of concrete. A large number of pieces of equipment and workers are being used to place the concrete, creating a fairly congested job site.

“The target monthly average of concrete to be pumped is approximately 110,000 cubic yards (100,000 m3) at each side of the project, says Donadi. “We are placing concrete somewhere on site 24-hours-a-day. We’re pleased that the Putzmeister equipment has stood up to the challenging schedule.”

Due to the demanding pour schedule, equipment needs to be moved often.

“The ease of set up of the boom pumps has been beneficial, as well,” Donadi adds. “With so many moving parts on site, having equipment that is easy to maneuver is a huge time-saver.

“On one of the toughest projects ever attempted, machines working under difficult conditions, day and night, bearing a hard-wearing concrete mix require the highest quality engineering and reliability to move the project forward. With innovative technology, 24-hour local support, spare parts on site, and service technicians in the field, Putzmeister has brought incredible value to our team.”

Construction at Third Set of Locks started in late 2007 and the target date for completion is August 2014—100 years after the initial locks on the Canal were opened.

Owner/Developer: Panama Canal Authority (ACP) - Panama City, Panama
Program Manager: CH2M Hill, Englewood, Colorado (world headquarters)
Design-Build Contractor: Grupo Unidos por el Canal joint venture – Milano, Italy
Equipment: Twelve Putzmeister Telebelt® TB 130’s, one Putzmeister Telebelt TB 200, three BSF 58.20H Truck-Mounted Concrete Pumps, one BSF 52Z.16H Truck-Mounted Concrete Pump, four Thom-Katt® TK 40 Trailer-Mounted Concrete/Shotcrete Pumps, six Putzmeister Jumbo Troughs.