Panama’s national president Juan Carlos Varela said in an address to the nation that the expansion of the Panama Canal should be completed by May, according to AFP.
President Varela encouraged the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) and multinational contractor GUPC to set aside contractual disputes until the job is done.
The president’s urging came after an adjudication board said the ACP should pay GUPC $17m to cover budget overruns and extra labour costs.
The ACP is responsible for the operation and management of the Canal which has been undergoing a $5.3bn expansion so that it can accommodate post-Panamax vessels of triple the current maximum handling capacity.
GUPC (Grupo Unidos por el Canal) comprises Spain’s Sacyr Vallehermoso, Italy’s Impregilo, Belgium’s Jan De Nul and Panama’s Constructura Urbana and it is responsible for the new third locks. Cracks and leaks in the Pacific side locks became apparent in August during water filling procedures and GUPC has been working to fix the problem, which it says will be done by the middle of this month.
On December 22 ACP head Jorge Quinan admitted the previous April deadline for completion (itself a delay from the original one of 2014 which would have marked the centennial of the Canal) would not be met. But he expressed confidence that it would be no later than June.
Now President Varela’s input has tightened the timeline again.