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Panama Canal programme defended

The massive $5.25bn (£3.3bn) Panama Canal Expansion scheme will open on time despite a six month construction delay, a senior programme manager claimed last week.

Speaking at the ICE’s Vernon Harcourt lecture, CH2M Hill programme manager Garry Higdem revealed that the contracting consortium leading the build had confirmed last week that it “might not make” the October 2014 construction completion date.

The consortium said the likely delay was a result of “some difficulty” starting the concreting phase. Higdem said the contractor had been attempting to find a way to compress the schedule but had failed to do so.

But Higdem said there was sufficient float in the programme because client the Panama Canal Authority was not planning to open the canal to shipping immediately after construction had finished. It has set aside its 2015 financial year as a “ramp up” period to train the thousands of new workers needed to operate the new locks being built. This is longer than is necessarily required, he said.

A consortium comprising Spain’s Sacyr, Italy’s Impregilo, Belgium’s Jan de Nul and local firm Cusa won the £2bn contract to design and build the two sets of locks in July 2009. CH2M Hill is programme manager for the expansion project.

Work to build the up to 427m long, 55m wide and 18.3m deep locks - one set each at the Pacific and Atlantic ocean ends of the canal - is currently around 21% complete.

Higdem said this year was one of most the critical in terms of production.

Some 4.8M.m3 of concrete will be needed to build the locks - to date only 500,000m3 has been poured. Some 180,000m3 will be poured each month until the concreting operation is complete.

  • The Panama Canal Authority last month shortlisted three bidders for a new 4.6km long, twin tower cable stayed bridge. It will be located 3km north of the new locks in the Atlantic-side province of Colon. The three shortlisted teams are expected to submit their proposals by June.

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