• Hydraulic infrastructures

Expansion works of the Panama Canal: the largest engineering piece of work in the 21st century

The third set of locks has opened a new interoceanic transit route, doubles current ship traffic, and complies with rigorous environmental standards

The expansion works on the Panama Canal have posed an engineering challenge for a long time. At Sacyr, we are passionate about challenges, and in 2016 we successfully finished building the third set of locks, a new maritime transit route that runs parallel to the pre-existing locks.


Watch all our videos on the Stories of the Canal and the Panama Canal



Two two-kilometer platforms on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts 



Of total investment



Involved in the project

Construction for the future

The expansion of the Panama Canal is a colossal work from an economic standpoint as well. The Canal is a strategic route for international trade and at 6% of Panama’s GDP, is the country’s principal economic activity. With a total investment of almost 4,000 million euros, this project has yielded Panama up to 2,500 million euros per year and has generated 180 direct employment positions. 

Innovation at the service of engineering

We designed a unique kind of concrete in order to overcome the challenges that the area posed from the technical, orographic, geological, and climatic standpoints. We improved the formula to guarantee a lifecycle of at least 100 years. Chemical proof, this concrete can stand inner temperatures of up to 70ºC. We also worked on a pioneer earthquake protocol response model, designing a structure ready to respond to two kinds of seismic levels. 

An efficient and sustainable project

Right from the start, the expansion of the Canal has taken the environmental aspects into account. As the new set of locks is quicker to fill and empty, they consume 7% less water. The sluicegates have nine deposits that allow reusing water and save up to 60% of this precious resource. 

As for its atmospheric impact, we estimate that the third set of locks will help reduce more than 160 million tons of CO2 from the shipping sector in the next ten years. 

We also care about preserving the biodiversity of Gatun Lake, which the Canal traverses. Before beginning construction works, environmental specialists rescued and relocated all local fauna (such as turtles, caimans, sloths, and boa constrictors) to the adjacent San Lorenzo park. Furthermore, we reforested a surface area of 2,800 ha, planted close to 6 million trees, and carried out training, informative, and follow-up programs about the project with the local communities.

Rescue and relocation of local flora and fauna species

Right from the first clearing and dredging jobs, we established strict protocols to care for wild flora and fauna:
  • 4,500 rescued and relocated specimens 
  • 200 protected species 
  • 2800 ha of reforested surface
  • 5,8 million trees planted

Brief history of the Panama Canal

The Spanish were the first to promote the creation of a maritime route in Panama. In the 15th century, they opened the Camino de Cruces, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific coasts for the first time. In the 19th century, several expeditions took place in the isthmus, and the transoceanic railway was inaugurated, which was pivotal to the later construction of the Canal. In the early 20th century, the United States started looking into the Panama transoceanic route with a keen eye. A few days after the country obtained its independence, they won the concession for constructing the Canal from the French company Compagnie Universelle du Canal interocéanique de Panama. Construction works started in 1904 and ended in August 1914, going down in the history of engineering. 

  • Sacyr Infrastructures
  • Canal de Panamá
  • Tercer Juego de Esclusas
  • Panamá

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