One of the newly constructed locks in the Panama Canal has sprung a leak, raising fresh questions on the expansion project’s already delayed timetable.
A publicly posted video (bit.ly/1U9wPDY) reveals water leaking through cracks in the Cocoli Locks on the waterway’s Pacific side. Asked by IHS Maritime about the severity of the issue, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) responded that “earlier in June, the filling of the new locks began, signalling the start of a deliberate and methodical phase of operational testing. This stage of testing is meant to detect and correct any imperfection.
“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 Panama Canal technical team is closely involved to ensure that these tests meet all quality standards and is working with Grupo Unidos por el Canal [GUPC], the contractor for the third set of locks project, to resolve this issue.
“GUPC has the obligation to ensure the long-term performance on all aspects of the construction of the locks and to correct this issue. Moreover, GUPC’s contract with the ACP dictates that the group is responsible for modifications and corrections.
“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 told IHS Maritime. The overall project is 93% complete. The current schedule calls for full commercial operations in 1H16.
In general, the relationship between the ACP and GUPC has been strained over the course of the project. Work stopped for an extended period in early 2014 amidst a contentious dispute between the two parties on cost overruns. Earlier this month, during a labour dispute between GUPC and one of its worker unions, the GUPC described ACP’s behaviour as “intransigent” and displaying a “negative attitude”.
GUPC has yet to respond to requests for comment on its plan to rectify the leak.