The Panama Canal Authority said late Wednesday that it has reached an agreement with the international consortium building a new set of locks for its expansion project to resume construction Thursday after more than two months of slowdowns and delays.
The agency overseeing the Canal said it will pay Grupo Unidos por el Canal $36.8 million for December invoices as soon as work resumes so the construction group can pay workers and suppliers for services rendered.
Additionally, the parties agreed to discuss within 72 hours other details of resumption, such as the dates for delivering the lock gates from Italy, the implementation schedule for the remainder of the work, and a timetable for a moratorium on repayment of previous cash advances made by the Canal Authority.
The Authority said other issues still remain to be resolved in negotiations, which have been steadily going on since the beginning of the year; the talks started after GUPC threatened to halt work if it wasn't reimbursed for what it says are $1.6 billion in cost overruns.
GUPC has run out of money to cover operational costs and slowed work to a quarter of its normal pace until stopping altogether a week ago after negotiations hit a dead end. The two sides quickly resumed talks, however. GUPC is looking for co-financing of future expenses to keep the project on track while the disputed amount is adjudicated through arbitration or in court.