Expanded Panama Canal to Open on June 26

The expanded Panama Canal will be officially inaugurated on Sunday, June 26, 2016, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) announced yesterday.

The announcement was made during the inauguration ceremony of the canal’s Scale Model Maneuvering Training Facility, intended for pilots and tugboat captains of the canal.

The President of Panama, Juan Carlos Verela, was in attendance at the inauguration ceremony, along with the Panama Canal Board of Directors Chairman, Roberto Roy.

“The Scale Model Training Facility will allow us to continue providing world-class service to the global maritime industry, while guaranteeing safe and efficient transits through the soon-to-be inaugurated Expanded Canal,” said Jorge L. Quijano.

The new facility features docking bays, replicas of the new and existing locks, gates, and chambers, all at a 1:25 scale.

The facility is equipped with a number of scale model Panama Canal tugboats, as well as ships built in France at Port Revel, including bulk carriers modeled after the Nord Delphinus, and a container ship modeled after the Maersk Edinburgh. In addition, a liquid natural gas (LNG) ship will be delivered by September 2016.

As World Maritime News reported earlier today, the canal was set to be opened by the end of June, as disclosed by Jose Ramon Arango, senior international trade specialist at ACP. However, the exact date was not set.

“We have had some problems with the contractors and also some problems with seepage — all of that has been resolved,” Bloomberg cited Arango as saying at a shipping conference in Stamford, Connecticut Tuesday.

The inauguration ceremony is to be held following the completion of repair works in the new locks of the Panama Canal that were concluded in February.

The so-called Cocoli’s locks sprung a leak in August 2015, and the project contractor Grupo Unidos por el Canal (GUPC) was working ever since to assess the leak and reinforce the structure.

The locks reinforcements have now passed the test and a chartered tanker is expected to be tested in May, before the project is handed over to ACP.

The long-awaited expansion project of the canal has reached 97 percent completion, based on the latest update from the canal authority.

The new locks will allow for the passage of between 10 and 12 Neopanamax vessels in approximately 40 daily transits through the Panama Canal.

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