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Panama Canal Authority Reviewing Completed New Locks

Posted on June 9, 2016

The Panama Canal Authority will determine whether its third set of locks are functional after the construction consortium responsible for the project said its work is completed ahead of the scheduled June 26 opening.

The authority is evaluating a report from Grupo Unidos por el Canal and will take appropriate action depending on its findings. If the authority finds something is amiss, the scheduled June 26 opening could be endangered, further delaying an opening that was originally planned for two years ago.

The cost of the expansion project, which will allow the canal to handle ships of up to 14,000 twenty-foot-equivalent units compared to 5,000 TEUs presently, stands at about $5.4 billion, but it was originally slated to cost $5.25 billion.

The trouble at the canal began when GUPC poured cement for the locks that did not meet contractual standards for durability of 100 years. Then it was hit by a six-day strike in 2012, and most recently by leaks in one of the eight sills that underlie the huge gates that will slide shut and hold the water that is being pumped in or out as the level lifts or lowers ships to the next canal level.

Cost overruns are another sore spot for the GUPC and canal authority. GUPC has filed claims for $1.6 billion in cost overruns under its $3.12 billion contract with the canal authority. The consortium has already been awarded some of this by an arbitrator and the remainder is still in arbitration.


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