Cosco Shipping Panama, which used to be called Andronikos, was renamed after being picked to be first through the new the new locks. It started at the Atlantic-facing Agua Clara Locks before reaching the Pacific-facing Cocoli Locks, where the official Inauguration ceremony took place.
Panama president Juan Carlos Varela and Panama Canal administrator and CEO Jorge Quijano praised the almost 40,000 workers who made the expansion project a reality.
The expansion programme included the construction of a new set of locks on the Atlantic and Pacific side of the waterway and the excavation of more than 150 million cubic meters of material, creating a second lane of traffic and doubling the cargo capacity of the waterway. The expanded locks are wider and deeper than those in the original canal but use less water thanks to water-savings basins that recycle 60% of the water used per transit.
The overall expansion programme has cost US$5.25bn (£3.8bn). The project to build a third set of locks is the most important component of the scheme. It entailed the construction of new lock complexes in the Pacific and Atlantic sides of the Panama Canal, creating a third lane of traffic for bigger ships. Each lock complex has three-steps.
The design-build contract for the third set of locks had a fixed cost of US$3.2bn and was awarded in August 2009.
The contract was awarded to Grups Unidos por el Canal, made up of Sacyr Vallehermoso, Impregilo, Jan de Nul and Constructora Urbana. The designer were Montgomery Watson Harza, IV-Groep and Tetra Tech. The gates were manufactured by Cimolai.