During stress testing of new locks for the Panama Canal, water seepage was detected in a specific area of the new Pacific Ocean-side locks in a section that separates the middle chamber and lower chamber, the Panama Canal Authority revealed Sept. 7.
This development means that the opening of the canal expansion, which has had a handful of delays already and is currently planned for spring 2016, could be pushed back again.
The Panama Canal Authority said it is now awaiting a formal report from the construction contractor, which will be issued following detailed inspections. The report is expected to include a root cause analysis, as well as the recommended repair methodology.
Upon evaluating the report's findings, the Canal Authority says, it will assess and communicate if the project’s completion timeline will be affected in any way.
The Authority also says it has designated two independent external structural engineers to conduct an objective evaluation of the reasons for seepage and assess the construction contractor’s solution.
Despite the setback, the expansion project has now reached 93 percent completion and work continues in other areas of the project, according to the Authority. Updates are expected to be issued by the Canal Authority as information becomes available.
The $5 billion Panama Canal expansion, which is expected to allow post-Panamax ships to travel through the canal en route to East Coast terminals, thereby bypassing the US West Coast, was initially scheduled to be completed in 2014 to coincide with the 100-year anniversary of the opening of the existing canal, but snafus have delayed the completion by nearly two years so far.