Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Canal Expansion 96 Percent Complete

By Mark Edward Nero

The expansion of the Panama Canal, which has been ongoing for nearly a decade, is now 96 percent complete, according to the head of the governmental body overseeing the project.

Jorge L. Quijano, CEO/Administrator of the Panama Canal Authority, provided the update in late December at industry event in Panama City.

“We are very close – only four percent remains to complete the project,” Quijano said. “An expansion of the Panama Canal has never been done and we should all feel very good about where we are today.”

According to Quijano, reinforcements of the locks are scheduled to be complete by mid-January, after which testing of locks reinforcements and additional testing will occur.

In April, transit trial tests with a chartered vessel in the Atlantic locks are scheduled. After that, a date for the expansion’s inauguration is expected to be chosen, likely in the second quarter of 2016, followed by the commercial opening date.

The $5 billion canal expansion is expected to allow post-Panamax ships carrying 13,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) to travel through the canal en route to East Coast terminals, thereby bypassing the US West Coast. It was initially scheduled to be complete in 2014 to coincide with the 100-year anniversary of the opening of the existing canal, but snafus have delayed the completion.
Among the most recent problems occurred last September when localized seepage was found in September in the concrete sill between the lower and middle chamber of the Canal’s expanded Pacific Ocean-facing locks. The leaks are expected to be fixed this month, according to contractor Grupo Unidos por Canal.

A video of the project’s recent progress can be seen at: http://micanaldepanama.com/expansion/.