On 27th October Crowley Maritime Corp. announced that heavy lift barge 455-4 had successfully delivered the first in a series of new gates for the ongoing Panama Canal expansion. Crowley is scheduled to help transport all eight of the gates involved in the Pacific side lock expansion of the Canal, a project that when coupled with the Atlantic side expansion will create a new lane of vessel traffic and double the waterway’s capacity.
The 455-4 was contracted by Sarens, a Belgium-based heavy lift company, to transport the gates from Cristóbal, a port on the Atlantic side of the Canal, to Grupo Unidos por el Canal, SA’s construction dock, which was built to receive the gates on the canal’s Pacific side. The barge is currently the largest capable of transitting the Canal and was towed by Panama Canal Authority tugs and made the transit in one day. The barge transported another gate in late October followed by three more in both November and December.
The new locks require 16 gates which, when complete, will increase efficiency and allow larger, post- Panamax ships, and extended width barges, to travel through the Canal likely resulting in a higher volume of containerised and non-containerised, break bulk and project shipments.
Also in October a consortium consisting of Royal Boskalis Westminster N.V., Van Oord, NMDC (Abu Dhabi) and Jan de Nul (Belgium) acquired a contract from the Suez Canal Authorities in connection with the expansion of the Suez Canal, which provides a vital shipping link between Europe and Asia. The total contract value amounts to $1.5 billion, with each partner entitled to an equal share of $375 million. The ‘new’ Suez Canal will partially run in parallel to the current waterway and partially entail widening and deepening of existing parts thereof.
The contract includes the construction of the parallel section of the canal with a length of approximately 50 kilometres to allow ships to simultaneously transit in two directions as well as the widening and deepening of a number of existing sections to a depth of 24 metres. The majority of the dredging activities for the canal expansion will be executed with 17 cutter suction dredgers. The project is expected to be completed in 2015. On 7th November Royal Boskalis Westminster N.V. announced the acquisition of a 14.8% stake in Fugro N.V. Boskalis views Fugro as an interesting company with activities that fit very well with its own activities.
The two companies have a lot in common in the area of assets, knowledge, capital intensity, global coverage, client base and are both global leaders in niche markets.