Panama Canal officials, working to minimize any crisis in confidence arising from a contractor's threats to suspend work on a new set of locks, continue to insist that the expansion of the waterway will be completed, with or without the current contractor.
But statements by the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) remain silent about any completion date or start of operations for the third set of locks, which will be able to handle 14,000-TEU container ships.
The schedule had already slipped eight months, from October 2014 to June 2015, when the consortium in charge of building the locks on the Pacific and Atlantic sides had trouble had trouble with its concrete mix. ACP Administrator Jorge Quijano last week said the new set of locks likely won't be open to vessel traffic until the fourth quarter of 2015, but that was before Grupo Unidos por el Canal upped the ante to be reimbursed for the concrete replacement and other unexpected costs.
The ACP said the costs are GUPC's responsibility and are not covered under the contract.
In an advisory to ship owners, operators and shipping agents, the ACP said, "We would like to reassure our customers that the contract was well drafted and includes guarantees that will allow the completion of the new locks, even if the ACP needs to step in to assume control of the project and deliver it in the shortest possible time."
The most recent statement from the ACP continued: "Our customers are our number one priority, and we will seek to resolve this conflict in the best possible manner within the legal framework of the contract to ensure that the construction continues and that the Expansion Program is completed.”
The current situation with the contractor has no impact on current Canal operations, the ACP said.