The new lock gates will allow the Panama Canal to accommodate vessels up to 130ft wide

The project to expand the Panama Canal has reached a major milestone, with the first of sixteen new lock gates delivered to the Latin American waterway.

American firm Crowley Maritime and Belgian heavy lifting company Sarens collaborated on the 105ft-wide tug that arrived on the Pacific side of the canal earlier this month.

John Ara, vice president of the solutions group at Crowley Maritime, said: “Working together proved to be a successful partnership for a project that the entire world is literally watching.”

Once complete, the expansion will double the canal’s capacity and allow vessels with a beam of up to 130ft to make the passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in less than one day.

Four more lock gates are due to be delivered from subcontractor Cimolai’s factories in Italy before the end of the year.

The lock gates weigh more than 2,000 tonnes each and cost $34.2million (£21.2million) per gate, including transportation.

Due for completion in 2016, the Panama Canal expansion project has an overall budget of $5.25billion.

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