Panama Canal expansion on track to complete in April

Panama city, Dec 22 (IANS) The Panama Canal expansion will be completed by April 2016, the agency that operated the waterway said on Monday.

The Panama Canal Authority (known by its Spanish acronym ACP) said it had fulfilled its payments for the expansion in keeping its contract with United for the Canal Group (GUPC), the multinational consortium in charge of building the third set of locks designed to accommodate today’s much larger cargo ships, Xinhua reported.

In a press release, the ACP said Panama Canal administrator Jorge Quijano told a business council on Friday that the plan was to begin to carry tests on the Atlantic floodgates in April with a chartered ship.

“But, in essence, at that time the floodgates should be working — that is sometime in April,” said Quijano.

“After that, we would have to choose the date for the inauguration and later, very close to the inauguration date, it would begin operating commercially. Our plan is to keep within the second quarter of 2016,” added Quijano.

The work on the additional locks is reportedly 96 percent complete now.

The expansion project began in September 2007 with an initial investment of $5.25 billion and the new locks had been expected to begin operating in August 2014 to mark the 100th anniversary of the historic waterway.

However, the work was slowed by a strike and differences over cost overruns between the ACP and the consortium.

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