Repairs of Cracks and Leaks in New Locks Push Panama Canal Expansion Deadline Back

The visible cracks and leaks that appeared in the new third locks on the Pacific end of the Panama Canal in August during the filling process finally brought the $5.25 billion expansion project to a halt. Previously, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) persistently maintained the April 2016 deadline was not in jeopardy despite a myriad of issues that could lead to a delay. Jorge Quijano, the head of the ACP, expects the planned opening of the expanded canal will extend no later than June.

Since tensions between the ACP and the Grupo Unidos por el Canal (GUPC) remain unsettled, there is no guarantee the lock repairs will meet this new proposed schedule. The GUPC is the international consortium comprising Spain’s Sacyr Vallehermoso, Italy’s Impregilo, Belgium’s Jan De Nul and Panama’s Constructura Urbana, and is installing steel reinforcements to repair the cracks. GUPC is responsible for some of the cracks and leaks that appeared in the Canal’s new locks and the ACP also blames the organization for construction and repair delays. The GUPC countered these claims by accusing the ACP of delaying payments.

The constant distrust and bickering between these two entities have already cost the Panama Canal time and more money. But as this expansion project prepares the Canal for the next generation of mega-sized container ships, hopefully, the two sides will resolve their issues, and not delay the project further.