Panama Canal officials have set aside up to one month to repair leaks discovered in August during the start of testing of the third set of locks.
Speaking at the Western Dredging Association’s first annual meeting of its Mexico chapter in Mexico City on 1 September, Javier Carrillo, international trade specialist for the Panama Canal Authority, said the needed repairs will not delay the planned April 2016 opening of the new locks.
“I saw the cracks and got scared too,” Carrillo said. “But we’re actually glad it happened now, because we’re in the testing phase – we’re testing each and every component.” Delaying the time table for the opening will be avoided because potential lock repairs were built into the schedule, Carrillo noted.
Related news: Panama Canal suspends draught restriction
Panama Canal engineers, Grupo Unidos por el Canal, the construction firm that built the locks, and two independent consulting firms are in the midst of planning repairs, Carrillo said.
Carrillo added that the weather phenomenon known as El Nino, which triggered a drought in the Canal watershed that’s causing water levels to fall substantially below their average, is a bigger concern than the leaking lock chamber.
Recent rainfall postponed a draught restriction that had been scheduled to go into effect on 8 September. However, if the effects of El Nino continue, “we’re going have to announce new draft restrictions through the canal,” Carrillo said. “The rain is something we have no control over. The locks we can fix.”