The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) said Wednesday it has received a long-awaited and highly anticipated preliminary update from the contractor behind the expansion of the Panama Canal on the causes and solution to a large crack that formed in one of chambers of the new lock complexes in August.
In a letter to the ACP, Grupo Unidos por el Canal, S.A. (GUPC), the consortium responsible for the design and construction of the Third Set of Locks, wrote that that the localized seepage was the result of insufficient steel reinforcement in the area while being subjected to stress from extreme condition testing.
The crack and water seepage appeared in August in the concrete sill between the lower and middle chamber of the Canal’s expanded Pacific Locks during a testing phase of the new locks. After photos and video of the crack began circulating online, the ACP was quick to point out that the issue would not delay the delivery of the project, although it later backtracked saying that the risk of delay was likely as it awaited a formal report from GUPC.
The ACP reported Wednesday that after careful examination of all the other sills in both lock complexes, GUPC said that in addition to reinforcing the sill that presented the issue, they would also reinforce the first and second sill in the Cocoli Locks and the first three sills in the Atlantic-facing Agua Clara Locks as a preventative measure, though the sills have not experienced any of the same problems.
GUPC also verbally indicated that the completion date for the expansion project will remain April 2016 as planned, however, the ACP is awaiting formal confirmation from GUPC in the form of a comprehensive report which should also include the root cause of the detected filtrations, the ACP said.
The ACP on Wednesday reiterated that GUPC’s contract with the ACP clearly states that the group is responsible for all corrections that may be required, and that GUPC is obligated to ensure the long-term performance on all aspects of the construction of the locks and to complete the expansion project following the quality standards established in the contract.
The Third Set of Locks project, the main component of the $5.25 billion expansion project, involves the construction of new, bigger lock complexes on the Atlantic and Pacific sides of the Panama Canal, which will allow larger ships to transit and effectively double the capacity of the famous waterway.
The opening of the new locks was originally scheduled for 2014 to coincide with the 100 year anniversary of the existing Panama Canal, but cost overruns and delays have pushed the opening to its current date of April 2016.
The GUPC consortium is led by Spain’s Sacyr Vallehermoso, with Impregilo of Italy, Jan De Nul of Belgium and Constructura Urbana, SA (CUSA) of Panama. GUPC won the contract for the Third Set of Locks in 2009 after beating out two other company’s for the project.