The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) on Tuesday announced that the huge, much delayed and over-budget expansion of the Canal will be officially inaugurated in a ceremony on Sunday 26 June, 2016.
This announcement was made in the presence of Panama’s national president Juan Carlos Varela while he was attending the official unveiling of the Canal’s Scale Model Manoeuvring Training Facility, which will allow pilots and tugboat skippers valuable hands-on, almost real experience.
The ACP – the government agency responsible for operating the Canal – had deferred the estimated completion date for the expansion project a few times, most notably in the past year because of cracks and leaks that appeared in parts of the newly built third locks.
Those problems are close to being fixed – by the multinational contractor consortium GUPC (Grupo Unidos por el Canal) – and will then need to pass tests, probably in May.
In January President Varela had called on the ACP and GUPC to have everything ready before the end of May.
When up and running the expanded Canal will be able to accommodate the new wave of supersized container ships with triple the cargo handling capacity.
Expansion of the 50-mile (77-km) trans-oceanic shortcut is running at a cost of around $5.3bn.
On Monday the ACP had announced it was introducing temporary draft restrictions on shipping through the Canal because of drops in water levels caused by the El Nino weather effect.