The Panama Canal is among the Seven Modern Wonders of the World, with about 14,000 cargo ships passing through its locks each year. In 2016, this “Colossal Wonder” grew as a third set of locks opened on the canal, and Post-Panamax ships passed between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans for the first time.
The $5.25-billion Panama Canal Expansion, which took nine years to construct, created a new lane of traffic along the Panama Canal to accommodate larger ships with more cargo capacity. The previously existing locks allow the passage of vessels carrying up to 5,000 TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit), while the new locks accommodate Post-Panamax ships or vessels carrying up to 13,000 TEUs. The expansion doubles the waterway’s capacity to meet demand growth and helps maintain the canal’s competitiveness and the value of the maritime route through Panama.
Hidden underneath these massive locks is a labyrinth of pipe and valves supplied by AMERICAN Cast Iron Pipe Company, headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, USA. These products, along with AMERICAN hydrants, are used to deliver drinking water, provide fire protection and manage dewatering pumping systems.
“AMERICAN’s products, technical and sales support, and fabrication capacity make it stand out among the competition,” said Sergi Ametller, electromechanical project manager with Grupo Unidos por el Canal (GUPC). “They fulfilled our technical specifications and had the production capacity for our stringent delivery schedule.”
According to Gabe Restrepo, AMERICAN International Sales Latin American Sales area manager, existing water transmission lines on the Pacific and Atlantic sides had to be relocated to maintain water service to the surrounding communities. New lines were also needed for water distribution, fire protection and a dewatering system. In total, more than 80,000 feet of AMERICAN ductile iron pipe in 4- to 30-inches in diameter was installed for the Panama Canal Expansion project.
AMERICAN Flow Control (AFC) Series 2500 gate valves in sizes 3- to 12-inches in diameter and AFC Series 52-SC swing check valves were used in the relocation of existing water mains, new water lines, a dewatering system and fire protection systems. AFC also supplied 4 1/2-inch American-Darling Mark 73-5 hydrants.
“Where the lines cross under the canal, they do so through pipe utility viaducts, which were built under the canal at each site,” said Restrepo. “The 30-inch flanged pipe in the cross-under had to meet a rigorous field test pressure of 450 psi. This is because of the lines’ high 300 psi operating pressure and the installation location directly beneath where Post-Panamax ships will pass.”
Restrepo said supplying the products needed and meeting the technical specifications was a collaborative effort among many departments and divisions at AMERICAN, including International Sales, Customer Service, Purchasing, Research, Traffic, Shipping, AMERICAN Ductile Iron Pipe and AMERICAN Flow Control.
“The expansion has global implications as larger ships that were once unable to pass through the Panama Canal are now able to do so,” he said. “We’re proud to be a part of this chapter in the canal’s more than 100-year history.”
AMERICAN, founded in 1905, manufactures ductile iron pipe, spiral-welded steel pipe, fire hydrants and valves for the waterworks industry and electric-resistance-welded steel pipe for the oil and natural gas industries. AMERICAN’s diversified product line also includes static castings and high-performance fire pumps.
For more information, go to www.american-usa.com