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Panama Canal update

Countdown to opening of expanded canal

By Michell de la Ossa Prieto


April 1, 2015 officially marked the start of the 365 day countdown until the first commercial traffic is able to transit the new post panamax locks of the Panama Canal.

The administrator of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP), Jorge Quijano, said the third set of locks, now under construction by the consortium Grupo Unidos por el Canal (GUPC), was due in operation by 1 April 2016.

Mr Quijano was confident the GUPC would complete the work in the scheduled time, saying: “I think it has the ability to do so, it has the will, and we will have to see how we create a favourable environment for it to succeed.”

While the expansion work continues, the ACP decided to submit the GUPC’s claim related to the basalt concrete mixture used in the construction project of the new canal locks to international arbitration.

Arbitration is the third and last stage of the procedure established in the contract for the design and construction of the new locks to settle claims between the owner (Panama Canal) and the contractor (GUPC SA).

Once the date has been decided, this arbitration will be held in Miami, according to the provisions of the contract.

Flooding of the first lock is due to take place in June on the Atlantic side and in August on the Pacific side. Then there are plans to test equipment and carry out navigation tests in December this year or, at the latest, in January 2016, according to Mr Quijano. “Optimistically, the Atlantic section will be completed two months before the Pacific,” he added.

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