The construction of the new third set of locks at the Panama Canal is behind schedule by seven months, but the other seven major components of the canal expansion are ahead of schedule, so the overall project will be completed on time in 2014, the Panama Canal Authority said Tuesday.
The international consortium of engineering firms that is building the locks, Grupo Unidos por el Canal, was supposed to start laying the concrete for the new locks in January 2011, but it was unable to make the specified concrete mix for the locks until July when it began pouring the concrete.
“Before they could start pouring, it had to be approved by us,” said Teresa Arosemena, a spokesperson for the Panama Canal Authority. “They had to make the mix detailed by us in the contract.”
Lock construction was further delayed by the six-day January strike by canal workers over the lack of back pay.
Panama Canal Administrator Alberto Aleman Zubieta last month confirmed the delay, but said GUPC is accelerating the work as much as it can in order to deliver the finished work in the time stipulated in the contract, October 2014.
Work on the other seven major canal projects are ahead of schedule so the entire project will be completed on time, Arosemena said.
GUPC was awarded the contract in 2009 to build the locks with a bid of $3.2 billion.
The GUPC consortium consists of Sacyr Vallehermoso of Spain, Impregilo of Italy, Jan De Nul of Luxembourg, and Constructora Urbana of Panama, which is known as CUSA. Aleman was president of CUSA, a Panamanian construction company, until 1995 when he started consulting work for the old U.S. Panama Canal Commission.
The locks construction project is the largest and most critical part of the $5.25 billion expansion program. It is being managed by Jorge Luis Quijano, the engineer who has been chosen to succeed Aleman as the new administrator of the Panama Canal Authority in September when Aleman completes his second seven-year term.
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