would wreck any type canal in existence either now or in the future, but
less damage would be inflicted on the
lock level canal because of its higher
resistance against landslides.
Their contention is that the estimate
of expenditures for the third locks
addition to the canal would be approximately from $210 million to $360 million, while the building of an entirely
new Sea Level Canal would cost the
taxpayers roughly between $5 and $10
billion. In addition, the Third Locks
Project can be completed in the shortest time, which would be approximately four or five years. The Sea-
Level Canal would take quite a few
years longer to complete.
The basic features of the Third
Locks Project are to increase the
capacity of the canal in respect to the
size and number of vessels that may be
accommodated, and also to decrease
the probability of interrupted ship
traffic due to enemy action. The wider
ancl larger dimensions of the proposed
locks will allow the passage of larger
vessels, including the largest of modern aircraft carriers. Thus, the additional flight of locks to be provided
throughout will increase the number
of vessels that can transit the canal in
a given period, since vessels can be
dispatched through the channels at
shorter intervals than through thc
Protection Against Fog
One of the project's main purposes
is to lessen the effects of fog upon the
capacity of the canal. Fogs of such
density as to block navigation of the
cut occur frequently during the rainy
season, from May to December. During a fog, the lockage of vessels northbound at the Pedro Miguel cut is impracticable because they cannot proceed immediately into the cut, and
there are at present no adequate
berthing or anchorage facilities available above the locks. Fog rarely blankets the actual locks themselves so as to
interfere with their operations, and if
berthing space or anchorage were
available above the locks, ships could
be held ancl locked up until the fog
cleared the cut. After the fog had lifted, they could be dispatched at close
intervals, anel the anchorage could be
cleared of vessels in readiness to receive southbound vessels.
With the third set of locks in operation, the Panama Canal's capacity
could be one ship every thirteen minutes. Also, it is deemed essential to
widen the Gaillard cut to permit two-
way traffic of all vessels. The cut can
be widened at a cost of tentatively $70
million for a minimum width of 500
feet. The wider channel resulting
would be extremely beneficial in reducing surges, decreasing the chances
of accidents in the cut, avoiding delays
to individual vessels, simplifying dispatching, and would offer Other advantages similar or comparable to
those of the anchorage. Also, the
increased width ancl depth would
reduce the "suction" effects that would
be experienced with large vessels in
channels of smaller dimensions.
Widening of the channel would
allow a reduction in the total time
required for a vessel to transit the
canal. Delay would be avoided in
approaching the locks, attaching the
lines of the towing locomotives, and
departing from the locks after lockage.
The average saving in time would be
about half an hour for every vessel
passing through the canal. In time of
war this would be a vital factor, particularly in moving an entire battle
fleet through the canal.
Economically, the elimination of
such delays is of tangible value to
each vessel, and the total economic
value would increase in proportion to
the total traffic. Estimating liberally
the average value of the savings in
time at approximately $75 per vessel,
the economic benefit would range
from $470,000 annually for the year
of highest traffic to date, to about
$1,500,000 for the traffic to be anticipated one hundred years from now
Cutting Down Accidents
With safer and wider clearance
assured, the reduction of physical and
mental strain on pilots navigating their
vessels through the canal would be
beneficial. The decrease in the need
for assistance by tugs would be another additional advantage towards
reducing accidents in passage. Since
the Panama Canal first opened, there
has been an estimated total of 708
accidents during actual transit. The
average damage per accident to each
vessel has been about $2,100 each
time. It is estimated that accidents
experienced in approaching and
departing from the locks would be
reduced by about one-third in number
if the Canal is widened.
The ratio of accidents would assume
great importance during war time.
Only recently, an important military
vessel struck the bank near Cunetto,
and encountered delay for repairs
from an accident that might have been
avoided in a wider ancl straights
channel. While it is generally conceded that the superior power and
maneuverability of war vessels reduces their liability to accident in the
cut, this particular accident furnishes
current evidence, if any is needed, i»
the desirability of a better channel-
With the wider channel in use. the
minimum time of transit for war vessels would be reduced considerable's
and the probability of blocking the
channel by the sinking or damage to a
military ship would be diminished
Great Savings in Operating Costs
The most important advantage,
from the economic viewpoint at least,
is the reduction in the annual operating cost of the Pacific locks. The nl"'
mate prospective savings would
amount to more than $500,000 pet
year. The increased traffic would mean
additional revenue in canal tolls dufl
ing peak periods of merchant sli'P
Probably the next most important
advantage is the increase in the total
usable storage in Gatun Lake- as '■>
result of the reduction of water sxxtm
in the cut and the addition of Mil"'1'
flores Lake at the summit level. Together, they would increase the usablj
storage by about 160,000 acre ft*]
which has an immediate value f"'
power purposes in the neighborhood
of $40,000 per year.
The ultimate value of this .storage
may be higher, when it is required f°'
lockage, but that time i.s remote, 3°
the- value could be determined oflfl
after detailed study eil other possib"'
ties that may be better for both p"xV'(
and navigation. It has been previous
pointed out that a similar result C*j
be accomplished by either widening''
deepening the cut sufficiently to i*
duce the surges e>r to permit lo*J
levels in Gatun Lake, and that storaffl
at a higher level than Gatun Lake '-
far more valuable. The reduction '
the time of transit by eliminating y1
delays in approaching and depart"*!]
from the Pedro Miguel locks wo"'
have a large theoretical value.
Maurice H. Thatcher, former go*'1',
nor of the Canal Zone ancl head of * .
society of more than 2,000 surviv)'
engineers, designers, and construe1
workers who actually built the
(Continued on page *-^
Facts Foiu-m News, October, 1™