San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Canal Woes

Panama Canal expansion hits $570 million snag

The official inauguration of an expansion of the Panama Canal could be delayed by six months – interrupting plans to coincide with centennial celebrations in 2014 –  Panama Canal Authority manager Alberto Alemán Zubieta said on Monday.

Delays followed the canal authority’s rejection of what it said was poor-quality cement to be used for the construction of canal locks by contractor UPC, a Spanish, Italian, Belgian and Panamanian consortium.

“Completion date is October 2014, but now it’s more likely to open by 2015,” said Ilya Espino, a canal official.

The construction group accused the Panama Canal Authority of modifying the $5.25 billion project, which they say will cost an additional $573 million.

“The [canal authority’s] complaints will cause a delay of at least one year, but we will try to finish earlier, perhaps six months late,” company project manager Bernardo González said. “That’s why we are asking for the additional 573 million dollars.”

Main goal of the canal expansion plan is to double the waterway’s annual capacity from 300 million tons of shipping to 600 million tons by using larger locks and deeper and wider channels.

Panama Canal was built by the United States between 1904 and 1914 and administered by Washington until it was handed back to Panamanian control on Dec. 31, 1999. The U.S. spent almost $375,000,000 including $12,000,000 to build facilities used to guard the canal, to finish the project.

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