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The Panama Canal Locks
, which lift ships up 25.9 m (85 ft) to the main elevation of the Panama Canal
, were one of the greatest engineering
works ever to be undertaken at the time, eclipsed only by other parts of the canal project. No other concrete construction of comparable size was undertaken until the Hoover Dam
in the 1930s. The total length of the lock structures, including the approach walls, is over 3 kilometres (nearly two miles).
, which have a total of six steps, limit the maximum size of ships which can transit the canal, known as Panamax
. Each of these steps has two lock chambers, doubling the amount of traffic that can be handled; together they raise ships from sea level to a height of 25.9 m (85 ft).
The locks are to be expanded in the near future
to allow more and larger ships to use the canal.
There are three sets of locks in the canal. A two-step flight at Miraflores
, and a single flight at Pedro Miguel, lift ships from the Pacific
up to Lake Gatun
; then a triple flight at Gatun lowers them to the Atlantic
side. All three sets of locks are paired; that is, there are two parallel flights of locks at each of the three lock sites. This, in principle, allows ships to pass in opposite directions simultaneously; however, large ships cannot cross safely at speed in the Gaillard Cut
, so in practice ships pass in one... Read More