PANAMA CITY, Sept 22 (Reuters) – The opening of a newly expanded Panama Canal could be delayed after cracks were detected in the concrete walls of one of the locks last month, the waterway’s deputy administrator said on Tuesday.
Manuel Benitez, of the Panama Canal Authority, told Reuters “it is likely,” when asked if there was a risk of delay.
He added that he was waiting for an update from the consortium handling the multi-billion expansion before determining whether the revamped canal would be finished and open for business by April of next year.
“Everything depends on the contractor,” he said.
“What we dont want is to speed this thing up if the result is not up to the quality (required),” he added.
Benitez did not elaborate when asked what sort of delay the project, which is being headed by Italy’s Salini Impregilo and Spain’s Sacyr, could face.
The Panama Canal’s current expansion plan was originally set at $5.25 billion but the costs rose and the administrator became locked in a dispute with building consortium Grupo Unidos Por el Canal (GUPC), which built the third set of locks.
The canal authority is currently on a roadshow in the United States and Europe regarding a possible bond issue for up to $450 million to help finance the project.
The canals administrator, Jorge Quijano, told Reuters earlier this year that he was now setting his sights on an even more ambitious project worth up to $17 billion that would allow the waterway to handle the world’s biggest ships, via yet another even larger set of locks.
(Reporting by Simon Gardner and Elida Moreno; Editing by Tom Brown)
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