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The Panama Canal Authority's US$5 billion expansion project has fallen six months behind schedule, which could mean that the new locks will not be operational until 2015, authority officials announced on national television.
"The company is trying to catch up with lost time,'" said Alberto Aleman Zubieta, the authority's chief executive officer. Problems arose late last year when officials determined that the concrete for the project did not meet specified standards.
The project was originally slated for completion in October 2014. Expansion will build a new lane of traffic along the Panama Canal through the construction of a new set of locks, which will double tonnage capacity and allow the transit of much longer, wider ships through the waterway.
However, construction reached an important milestone earlier this month with the completion of the first monolith for the new locks on the Pacific end of the Panama Canal. The monolith is the first one to be completed from a total of 46 such structures being built in the Pacific locks upper chamber, Panama Canal Authority officials said in a statement.
The concrete and steel structure is 33.8 meters high, 7.5 meters wide and 27 meters deep. The culverts are part of the locks filling and emptying system and will run along the lock walls, which are made up of the monoliths. The construction of this single monolith required 232 tons of reinforced steel and 2,605 cubic meters of concrete.
On top of the delays, the ACP announced in April its intention to adjust tolls to bring them closer to the value of the route for certain market segments, to redefine some segments and to adjust minimum tolls.
After a 30-day public consultation period, the ACP conducted a hearing on May 23, 2012. The April proposal has been slightly modified and implementation of the new charges has been postponed from July 2012 to October 2012, giving the industry additional lead time before implementation of the new tolls as well as providing an additional three months before the second step of increase in 2013. In addition, the revised proposal eliminates the proposed container/breakbulk segment. Container/breakbulk vessels will continue to be classified as part of the segment known as others.
The revised tolls adjustment will apply only to the following market segments: general cargo, dry bulk, tanker, chemical tanker, LPG, vehicle carrier and ro-ro and the segment known as others.