Water will start rushing into the newly expanded Panama Canal on Thursday (local time) in one area that was widened, ahead of the waterway's April 2016 re-inauguration.
The area around the new Agua Fria locks in Gatun, on the Atlantic coast, will be the site of the preliminary tests, the Panama Canal Authority said
. Completely filling up the first lock will take three to five months, according to the builders consortium Grupo Unidos Por el Canal (GUPC).
The third set of locks is 85 % complete and the project is now focused on electro-mechanical installations laying the groundwork for finishing touches to ensue.
GUPC says it will open five valves on the Atlantic side this week that will begin the flow of water into the new lock chambers.
Project manager at GUPC, Jose Pelaez, says that the up to five million cubic meters of water will be used to fill the two chambers on the Atlantic side.
The entire process of flooding and testing could take about three to four months total, GUPC said.
“After this phase, we will be able to start testing the first two gates and so on,” he added.
The Panama Canal expansion project involves the construction of a third lane of traffic, or Third set of Locks, which will allow the passage of larger vessels and effectively double the Canal’s capacity.
The Panama Canal expansion is a massive infrastructure project, with major implications for small businesses. The reengineered canal, a project scheduled to be completed in 2016, will accommodate ships that are nearly three times larger than currently allowed.
It will create an East Coast port
system that will rival that of the West Coast. The subsequent developments in international trade will affect many small- and middle-market companies—whether they are ready or not—and across a host of industries, including transportation, professional services and manufacturing