The Panama Canal Authority is seriously studying construction of the fourth set of locks on the Canal, a project that would cost up to USD17 billion, according to reports.
The locks would enable the Canal to accommodate the world’s biggest ships of 20,000 TEU capacity and more yet to come.
Jorge Quijano, who leads the Panama Canal Authority, said the financing options for the fourth set of locks would include issuing bonds and using the Canal’s own revenues.
China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) has already expressed interest in construction of the fourth set of locks.
However, should the plan go ahead it would take up to 15 years before it becomes operational.
The decision on further expansion has its roots in the fact that the competing Suez Canal, which is also undergoing expansion, can already accommodate Post-Panamx ships, which has proven to be a strategic advantage in attracting greater traffic volumes. Increasing capacity would bring the two to a level playing field.
The pressure heightens further as plans for Nicaragua Canal gain momentum, also targeting a piece of the “shipping action.”
The Panama Canal is undergoing a USD5.2 billion expansion with the installation of the third set of locks well underway. The project is expected to be completed by December 2015, 16 months behind schedule due to work suspension triggered by cost overruns.
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