Finally! Panama Admits Crack Will Delay Opening of the Panama Canal Expansion

Photo credit: Panama Canal Authority
Photo credit: Panama Canal Authority

A delayed opening of the Panama Canal expansion past the April 2016 deadline is looking more and more likely as 2015 comes to a close and work continues to repair a crack that formed in one of the new lock complexes.

Panama Canal Authority (ACP) Administrator Jorge Quijano gave an update on the expansion project at an industry event in Panama City on Friday, telling attendees that the project now stands at 96% complete and assuring that delivery is still expected in the second quarter of 2016, even though a final date remains to be determined.

Since August, contractor GUPC has had the additional task of repairing a crack that developed in one of the concrete chambers of the new Cocoli locks complex located on the Pacific side of the canal.

In emailed update issued Monday, the ACP provided the latest timeline projection and said that lock reinforcements are on track to be completed in mid-January, which will be followed by testing of the locks.

The update added that the first transit trials of the the new Atlantic locks are not scheduled to begin until April, and only then will inauguration and commercial opening dates be set.

“The ACP is building the expanded Canal for the long haul, and quality and testing are critical,” the email said. “The ACP will continue to provide updates on the project as more progress and information is made available.”

The $5.25 billion expansion project, involving the construction of a third lane of traffic to allow the passage of bigger vessels, was originally planned to be completed in 2014, but worker strikes and other setbacks pushed the opening to 2015 and most recently April 2016.

The update from the ACP on Monday was the first official indication that delivery of the project will not happen in April as planned.