Crack Could Delay Panama Canal Opening


Published Sep 9, 2015 2:59 PM by The Maritime Executive

Just one week after saying a crack in one of the Panama Canal’s new lock chambers wouldn’t delay its April 2016 opening, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has backtracked and announced that, well, maybe it could.

In a statement released September 7, the ACP announced that it is awaiting a report from the contractor, Grupo Unidos por el Canal (GUPC), on the causes and solutions for the crack that appeared in the canal’s Cocoli Locks. The ACP will reassess the canal’s projected completion date after receiving the report.

Filling of the locks began on June 22, and the ACP announced in late August that the canal had sprung a leak. ACP and GUPC officials met on August 22 to discuss the steps that would be taken to repair the crack.

“At this time, ACP has designated two independent external structural engineers to conduct an objective evaluation of the reasons for this localized issue and to assess GUPC's solution,” the Authority said in a statement. “While this important step takes place, the ACP is encouraged by the overall progress of the program, which has now reached 93 percent completion.”

The Panama Canal expansion was initially scheduled to be completed in 2014 to coincide with the 100-year anniversary of the opening of the existing canal, but cost overruns, work stoppages and delays have pushed the opening to April 2016.

Panama hopes the $5 billion expansion will stimulate its economy by increasing trade flows to and from the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts as well as Latin America. Upon completion, vessels up to 12,000 TEUs will be able to transit the canal.