Panama Canal Automation system

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The project

The expansion project of the Panama Canal doubles the capacity of the Canal in 2016, allowing the passage of vessels larger than Panamax (so called because they have the same dimensions of the locks of the existing Panama Canal).

The project creates a new traffic line along the channel, with the construction of a new set of locks (third set, added to the already existing two). The new Panama Canal includes the following components: civil construction of two sets of locks, one located on the Atlantic and another on the Pacific side, each with three watertight chambers which include three water basins; excavation of new access channels to the new locks and expansion of the existing navigation channel; bottom subsidence of the navigation channel and raising of the water to the maximum operational level of Gatun Lake.

Panama should start to benefit from the Canal expansion in 2017, when the government foresees getting an extra $1.4 billion in revenue, a jump of 30 percent compared with this fiscal year.

Jorge Quijano

Administrator and CEO – Panama Canal Authority

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The Channel automation system

The automation system of the new Panama Canal allows to manage the passing of the vessels with different levels of automation:

  • Totally automatic mode: it allows the opening of valves and rolling gates in a synchronized manner through the use of programmed sequences on appropriate PLC’s, which also allow to automate the complete passage of the ship with intervention by the operators minimized to the essential operations (for instance, the operator must only confirm to the system of when the ship is moored to the docks);
  • Semi-automatic mode: it allows the opening of valves and rolling gates in a synchronized manner, but the various stages of passage of the vessel are handled manually;
  • Manual mode: the management of the opening and closing of valves and rolling gates is not synchronized and the passage of the ship can be done totally manually.

Under the project, Iso Sistemi has been called by Leonardo – Finmeccanica to cooperate in the following phases:

  • HMI (Human Machine Interface) system design, which includes all the graphic pages of the channel supervision system (about 5,000 HMI pages plus 1000 pages of panel view per site));
  • Setting up the hardware/software system of the Control Room, composed of cabinets containing fully redundant servers and clients;
  • Development and testing of the channel simulation system, vital for the training of the operators; design, development and testing of the entire system of reporting from the historical database;
  • Commissioning and tuning of the automation system.
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The role of Iso Sistemi

Iso Systems has brought its experience, competence and professionalism in all phases of design and development of the Automation System and during the commissioning of the two Atlantic and Pacific areas.