The opening of the Expanded Canal in 2016 transformed the waterway’s capacity to serve world commerce/trade. It was an investment in the future of the Canal and its customers, doubling its capacity of service to usher in a new world economy. The Canal’s investments and the maintenance of its operations represent a commitment to its continued reliable service. These investments are a monthly and annual commitment to its customers that the waterway is taken care of and in constant renovation.
The Monte Lirio anchorage project is a recent example of the Canal’s steady improvement and to provide customers with greater flexibility. The anchorage, located southeast of the Agua Clara Locks in Gatun Lake, will allow to anchor up to three Neopanamax vessels simultaneously.
The Monte Lirio anchorage project located southeast of the Agua Clara Locks in Gatun Lake
To expand the anchorage, special equipment was used to clear trees and logs that were submerged in the surrounding areas. The area was then charted and measured to confirm that the seabed could safely anchor Neopanamax vessels with drafts up to 50 feet.
The anchorage, will provide additional, safe locations to secure Neopanamax vessels passing through the waterway, allowing for greater flexibility in scheduling Canal traffic, maximizing the Canal’s capacity. They will also minimize delays and increase safety by allowing vessels to be secured during rainy season or mechanical issues. The first two areas of the anchorage were opened on October 23, 2020, and the third will be available in February 2021.
At the moment, the Panama Canal is also carrying out two other projects that will add flexibility and capacity to the operation. They include the Peña Blanca anchorage in Gatun Lake, which should conclude early in 2021 and the deepening of anchorage “A” in Cristobal, which is scheduled to start operations in January 2022.
There are components of the Canal’s processes and infrastructure that date back more than a century ago, which require constant modernization and maintenance to continue offering the efficient service currently provided.
An example, is the system of dams and spillways that were originally designed for the Canal were constructed with technology no longer used today and that require constant modernizations to bring them up to current modem standards. By bringing in new technology and talent to innovate and adapt these systems, the Canal is able to keep up with the demands of the 21st century.
As a result, the waterway budgets for extensive maintenance each year. In fiscal year 2021, the Canal is investing 350 million dollars in maintenance. These investments include new acquisitions, replacements of operating fleets and improvements in its facilities all of which are key to the more than 100 years of operations at the waterway. From maintaining the locks, dams and tugboats, the Canal continually evaluates its infrastructure to maintain reliable transits. In the coming years, the Canal plans to invest around 3 billion dollars in capital expenditure on maintenance and infrastructure projects.
The investment in a new system guaranteeing the long-term supply of water for the next 50 years will also help the Canal continue its efficient, uninterrupted service in the future. This project, like the Expanded Canal, will fundamentally change operations at the Canal. To achieve this, the Canal expects to make the waterway’s largest investment since the Expansion Program. The new water management system will reshape how the Canal uses water, reinforcing its role as a green route for trade. It is also just one of the many ways the Canal is working to heighten its protection of the environment and contributions to a more sustainable era for the maritime industry.
The Canal’s attentive care and maintenance of its infrastructure is a perennial part of its operations. As the global economy rebounds from the pandemic, the Canal will ensure it remains prepared for the future while preserving its world class service.