Seeing the east lane of Gatun without water is quite an event. Taking advantage of the emptied space, hundreds of collaborators enter all its corners: checking, repairing, repainting… Every two years, every ten, every thirty, all the water is removed from a lane of the Panamax Locks to examine its components and renew them to extend the useful life of the infrastructure and ensure the safe transit of ships.
Professionals of all crafts attack the job like an army. The civil and electromechanical specialists of the Panama Canal’s great construction site check its walls, valves, tunnels, gates. They act like Formula One mechanics. During a 10-day pause in transit, corrections and coordinated inspections of the 107-year-old locks are made.
“It’s all about us being connected, about us being like a Swiss watch to keep the lock operational,” explains Luis Hamilton Worrell, maintenance foreman for valves, gates and submerged components.
The work benefits from multidiscipline and the experience of many. “Here there are crews from different locks and we integrate for the overhaul, and we see what experience each person brings,” says Héctor Duffis, industrial mechanic.
There is 24-hour activity because the work must be fast and efficient, and without deterring the attention of our customers. In fact, while the staff is working hard to get the work done, ships traversing north and southbound continue to transit in the west lane.
Architect Riana Prosper is part of the civil works team, supporting the quality and monitoring of the works. She emphasizes that “the work of this great team guarantees the reliability of the waterway. It guarantees that all the machinery will continue working as expected“.
Luis Hamilton, maintenance foreman
“I have a conglomerate of motivations. As a colonense, it is to see what I represent for others and for my own satisfaction. Being here, I was able to discover feelings that go beyond the study. I strive for continuous improvement, not only in my work, but also in my personal growth: it is to continue doing better what is already good. It’s a feeling that calls you to continue and to improve.”
Riana Prosper, maintenance and reliability specialist.
“The first time I was in a dry chamber was several years ago on a technical tour. My first impression was: WOW. And I still feel the same today. I am here, in the same place where many years ago, there were workers building the Canal. Here was my great-grandfather who arrived in Panama on January 15, 1907 from Martinique. That fills me with pride.
Hector Duffis, industrial mechanic
“Every day, I wake up and see my wife and children. I know that through my work, I create opportunities for them. I tell them to be positive, persevering people and that studying has lifted us out of poverty. What distinguishes a good mechanic is his attitude. We don’t leave anything half-finished here.