Francisco Miguez, the authority’s executive vice president, finance and administration, gave attendees an update on preparations for the new set of locks, saying they should be open for business early in the second half of 2016.
When asked about a more specific date, Miguez said “we can't push the contractor for a specific opening date. We have to work with the dates they give us. I would love to give you a specific date, but I can't. This is construction and it's a big project.”
Miguez said the canal authority’s goal is to fill the capacity provided by the new locks as quickly as possible. He said the expectation is that shippers will have adjusted their supply chains to take advantage of bigger ships being able to fit through the wider locks within six months of the locks opening.
The authority said it has designs on luring Asia-U.S. East Coast services that presently use ships too large to fit through the canal. Currently, 33 services use the Panama Canal, and Miguez said the authority is targeting two to four services that presently transit the Suez. That would also increase Asia-U.S. East Coast market share for the Panama Canal, which peaked at 57 percent but is now about 35 percent.