100 Years of Dredging Culebra Cut

Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Photo courtesy of ACP

The Panama Canal commemorates 100 years of dredging Culebra Cut, removing the last barrier during its construction for the free movement of vessels along the 80-kilometer waterway.

Following the calendar of activities in the countdown to the centennial, the Panama Canal highlighted the significant role played by dredging to ensure the safe navigation through the waterway, even before its opening 100 years ago.

"Dredging is key to ensure the safe and efficient navigation through the Panama Canal on its nearly 100 years of operation," said Panama Canal Administrator Jorge L. Quijano, during an event in Gamboa, headquarters of the Panama Canal Dredging Division. This division has a total of 850 workers.

Although October 10, 1913 marked the blast of the Gamboa Dike which removed the last land barrier and joined Culebra Cut and Gatun Lake, the Panama Canal was not fully navigable due to landslides in Culebra Cut. It was necessary to continue dredging for nearly two months to complete the opening of this stretch.

Dredging at the Panama Canal dates back to 130 years ago, when the French began the effort to unite the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean. In 1907, during the United States construction period, the Excavation and Dredging Department was created due to the importance of this task to the success of the project.

From then on, dredging is a daily activity at the Panama Canal to ensure the waterway’s depth and the safe passage of ships through the navigation channel in the Atlantic and Pacific entrances, the lakes and Culebra Cut, as well as in the anchorages, docks and mooring stations located along the route.

Dredging also plays an important component of the Panama Canal Expansion Program to ensure the required depth and enable the safe navigation by bigger vessels with deeper draft upon its completion.

The Panama Canal Dredging Division has a variety of equipment including cutter-suction dredges, mechanical dredges, drilling and blasting barges, some among the most powerful in the world.

The Panama Canal Dredging Division is strategically located in Gamboa since 1936 to have the equipment near Culebra Cut and Gatun Lake, areas that require permanent dredging.


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