Panama Canal Expansion Eyeing June Inauguration

March 25, 2016 | By Garrett Montgomery More

A Panama Canal expansion will be completed this summer – which is two years behind schedule. The $5.2 billion expansion that hit few bumps along the way will permit larger cargo ships to make their way through the locks.

Panama Canal

The Panama Canal expansion which was scheduled for completion in October 2014 will finally be inaugurated in June 2016. Many are wondering, will the companies, contractors, and engineers hired for the massive $5.3 billion job be fined by Panama authorities for completing the project two years late? It appears that the answer is no, according to Canal Authority Administrator Jorge Quijano.

The lack of action by the government is very surprising because most of the delays were caused by contractor disputes, strikes, and countless repairs that also led to the ballooning of the original budget. In a press conference, Quijano said that the Panama Canal Authority has resolved all the problems associated with contractors and “seepage from the new locks discovered during testing.” He explained:

“The date is very close and there is still a lot of work to do. We can’t lose face.”

He went on to say:

“We have had some problems with the contractors and also some problems with seepage — all of that has been resolved. We expect that, by the end of June or by early July, we will open the canal.”

When the work is completed on the new locks on May 31, bigger ships will be allowed to pass through wider locks with mechanical gates that will reduce congestion and be able to accommodate “post-Panamax vessels.” Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela announced:

“The expansion may shift international trade routes, allowing ships to reach Asia from the U.S. Gulf Coast more than two weeks faster than they would going east through the Suez Canal. It’ll make room for vessels with the capacity to carry 12,600 containers, almost three times what the existing locks permit, and will be able to handle tankers carrying liquefied natural gas.”

The administration went on to reveal that shipments through the canal could grow to 360 million tons in 2017 following the project’s completion, after reaching a record 340.8 million tons in 2015. The Panama Canal expansion is the reason for a series of port and infrastructure upgrades throughout the Caribbean region and the U.S. East Coast as docks make room for bigger vessels.

The newly expanded Panama Canal will be inaugurated on June 26.

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