Panama Canal Gets An Electrical Upgrade

Power management company Eaton has been awarded a $5.2 million contract to provide electrical installation services for the Panama Canal Expansion.
Published: Wed 29 Apr 2015

The Panama Canal Expansion, due to be completed by the end of 2015 and operational by 2016, was more than 90% complete as of the end of January 2015.

The roughly US$6 billion canal expansion is expected to double the amount of cargo that crosses the Isthmus of Panama to 660 million tonnes per year. The resulting third lane of traffic will allow the passage of bigger vessels, which will double the canal's capacity and have a major impact on world maritime trade.

The scale of the project to excavate new channels, widen existing shipping corridors, and complete three new lock chambers on the Pacific side and three more close to the Caribbean is said to make the canal expansion a 21st-century parallel to building the Egyptian pyramids.

The project will also help to protect and conserve the water resources of the Panama Canal watershed.

A new water-saving basin system will improve water efficiency, using seven percent less water than the existing locks. In addition, 60% of the water will be recycled in each transit.

Panama Canal expansion –critical electrical needs

But, with the expansion, comes greater electric needs. To meet these needs, power management company Eaton has been appointed to provide critical electrical installation services for the Panama Canal Expansion Programme. The value of the contract is estimated at US$5.2 million.

Grupo Unidos por el Canal, SA (GUPC), the contractor responsible for the design and construction of the third set of locks of the expansion programme under contract to the Panama Canal Authority, awarded the contract. GUPC is a consortium led by Spain's Sacyr Vallehermoso, Italy's Impregilo, the Belgian Jan de Nul Group, and Panama's Constructora Urbana SA.

Eaton has for many decades been providing the Panama Canal with power distribution products and solutions, including support for electrical system design and construction in 2011. The latest contract, aimed at developing a robust, reliable and efficient electrical system, is the culmination of several years of planning, technical reviews and collaboration.

The new contract will see Eaton’s Electrical Engineering Services and Systems Divisio serve as the prime contractor for the electrical installation across the east side of the Pacific lock of the expanded Panama Canal. Eaton will lead project management, quality assurance, safety and technical supervision and provide installation services for all of the electrical equipment it provided in previous contracts. The range of power management solutions and products includes Arc Resistant Medium Voltage Switchgear, Pad Mounted Transformers, FlashGard® Motor Control Centers, Clean Power Variable Frequency Drives and on-site equipment start-up supervision, commissioning, testing and training services.

Panama Canal developing a more reliable electrical system

Under the additional contract, Eaton’s Electrical Engineering Services and Systems Division will serve as the prime contractor for the electrical installation across the east side of the Pacific lock of the expanded Panama Canal. Eaton will lead project management, quality assurance, safety and technical supervision and provide installation services for all of the electrical equipment it provided in previous contracts.

“The Panama Canal is among the greatest engineering triumphs of the 20th century, and its 21st-century expansion will once again help revolutionize global commerce,” said Revathi Advaithi, president, Electrical Sector, Americas, Eaton. “By continuing to deploy efficient, reliable and safe electrical systems, Eaton is helping to bolster the economic competitiveness of the Panama Canal as it enters its second century of operation."