Afdeling Maritieme Techniek Universiteit Gent
Shallow Water

Study of the Panama Canal

Flanders Hydraulics Research has performed tank test model studies for vessel manoeuvring in the Third Set of Locks on the Pacific and Atlantic sides of the Panama Canal to determine design and operational criteria, such as need and configuration of lock approach walls, design criteria for fenders inside lock chambers, and tug assistance needed.

lock1 lock2 lock4

The studies required building ship models and a scale model of locks to include main horizontal and vertical features approaches from ocean and lake side. Different scenarios with varying vessel speeds, water depths, lock approach structure configurations, operating scenarios and tug assistance were simulated, reaction forces measured, analyzed, optimized and reported.

In the symmetrical approach channel of the lock model any approach structure can be built, or a second lock chamber for lock-lock simulations. The following 4 approach structures were tested (each is 450 m long starting from the knuckle):

  • no approach structure (symmetrical approach channel)
  • closed approach structure
  • permeable approach structure
  • invisible approach structure
schematic presentation of the 4 different approach structures


Although the lock of the model was not used, some model tests for the nautical bottom project have been carried out in the lock model tank. Due to its relatively small size in comparison to the towing tank, the amount of artificial mud could be kept to a minimum.