The head of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has said for the first time that the planned opening of the expanded canal will be postponed because of cracks in the new locks, according to the EFE agency.
Previously the ACP, the government agency that manages and operates the canal, has steadfastly maintained that the deadline of April 2016 would be met but now, in statements to business leaders, ACP head Jorge Quijano has said that will not be the case.
He is still confident of a second quarter opening and no later than June.
At the same time the ACP has denied accusations made by contractor GUPC (Grupo Unidos por el Canal), of tardy payments. GUPC says the payment delays are partly responsible for project delays. But ACP maintains that “payments are based on the progress of construction”.
Problems in the $5.25bn project surfaced in August when, during the filling process, visible cracks and leaks appeared in the new third locks on the Pacific end.
Since then tensions have been clear between ACP and GUPC, the international consortium responsible for the new locks.
GUPC – comprising Spain’s Sacyr Vallehermoso, Italy’s Impregilo, Belgium’s Jan De Nul and Panama’s Constructura Urbana – has been installing steel reinforcements to repair the cracks.
The expansion project is intended to make the Canal ready for the new generation of mega-sized container ships.