Panama Canal Authority says new locks timeline not impacted by crack

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) said on Monday that a crack that has formed in one of the new locks making up the expanded Panama Canal should not impact the ‘Third Set of Locks’ project completion timeline, but the scope of the repairs needed to fix issue has not been revealed.

The crack formed in what is known as the sill in one of the chambers of the new Cocoli Locks, located on the Panama Canal’s Pacific side, during the filling and testing stage. Video obtained by gCaptain this weekend showed water leaking through a crack that spans nearly the width of the lock chamber, just below one of the giant rolling gates.

“Earlier in June, the filling of the new locks began, signaling the start of a deliberate and methodical phase of operational testing. This stage of testing is meant to detect and correct any imperfection,” a statement issued Monday by the ACP said.

“As part of this testing, some water-filtration issues were detected in a specific area of the new Cocoli Locks, located on the Pacific side of the waterway. The imperfection was detected in the step that divides the middle chamber of the locks from the lower chamber, known as lockhead 3,” the ACP added.

“At this time and based on preliminary evaluations, the project’s completion timeline as well as the expected date for commercial operation are not expected to change,” the ACP statement said.

The ACP said it is working with the contractor for the Third Set of Locks project, Grupo Unidos por el Canal, S.A., or GUPC, to resolve the issue. GUPC is ultimately responsible for the successful delivery and performance of the new locks, and the ACP has said that any imperfections or defects will not meet the quality requirements laid out in their contract with GUPC.

“GUPC has the obligation to ensure the long-term performance on all aspects of the construction of the locks and to correct this issue,” the ACP statement said. “Moreover, GUPC’s contract with the ACP dictates that the group is responsible for modifications and corrections.”

Vice President of Finance at the ACP Francisco Míguez said in an interview Monday that contractor GUPC should bear all costs associated with the repair of the locks.

Neither the ACP or GUPC have said what sort of repairs will be required to fix the leaks.

The Panama Canal expansion involves the construction of a third lane of traffic that will allow the passage of larger ships.  The project, costing more than $5 billion, now stands at more than 90% complete. As of now, the new locks are expected to become operational in April 2016.

The new Pacific and Atlantic lock complexes have a combined 16 rolling gates, 8 on each side.

The GUPC consortium is led by Sacyr Vallehermoso of Spain, along with Impregilo of Italy, Jan De Nul of Belgium and Constructura Urbana, SA (CUSA) of Panama.

Copyright Ships & Ports Ltd. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit given to as the source.