ACP Sets Inauguration Date for New Panama Canal

File image courtesy ACP

By MarEx 2016-03-23 20:19:41

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) announced Wednesday that the long-delayed inauguration of the Panama Canal Expansion will be held on June 26. 

The canal expansion is now 97 percent complete, ACP said. Final testing will be conducting in the following weeks.

Jose Ramon Arango, an ACP official, told industry members at the annual Connecticut Maritime Association conference that the Authority plans to test the expansion's new locks with a tanker beginning in May, well in advance of the opening. 

“We have had some problems with the contractors and also some problems with seepage — all of that has been resolved,” Arango said. He gave a less precise forecast for the opening, and suggested that the inaugural ceremony would be held by "the end of June or by early July."

The expansion is expected to raise the Canal's record-high traffic levels yet further, to as much as 360 million tons in 2017. 

The project was initially set to be finished at the end of 2014, but the date was pushed back to April of this year, then June, due to a dispute between the ACP and the building consortium over costs and lock seepage problems. 

Separately, in Panama, President Juan Carlos Verela attended the opening of ACP's new training facility for pilots and tug captains, built to anticipate the expansion. The center is a 35-acre mockup, with two lakes connected by a channel modeled after the Canal's Culebra Cut. It features docking bays, replicas of the new and existing locks, gates, and chambers, plus wave and wind generators, all at a 1:25 scale. Mini tugs and vessels, including bulk carriers modeled after the Nord Delphinus and a container ship modeled after the Maersk Edinburgh, are on hand to simulate canal transits. A 1:25 scale LNG carrier is expected in September.