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The Panama Canal expansion is expected to be finished by May, instead of April as was previously disclosed. President Juan Carlos Varela made the announcement during his speech before the National Assembly, during the opening session of that Legislative Organ..
Varela urged the Spanish-led consortium building the expansion, Grupo Unidos por el Canal de Panama, to focus on completing the project and to leave legal disputes to the “competent authorities,”according to Agence France-Presse. That plea came after an adjudication board ordered the state-run Panama Canal Authority to award the consortium $17 million for budget overruns and extra labor costs.
“I am calling on the contractors for the expansion project to hold dialogue with the Panama Canal Authority, to allow work to be completed, to leave legal disputes in the hands of the competent authorities and to avoid mediatized differences that in no way help the image of the contractors, the Canal Authority and the Republic of Panama,” AFP quoted Varela as saying.
The project was due to open in 2014, but a series of strikes, contract disputes, problems with quality of construction and the money demands from GUPC has seriously delayed its completion. According to Jorge Luis Quijano, Panama Canal Authority Administrator, the Canal is losing around $1 million a day, because the third set of locks is not in operation.
The expanded Canal will allow mega ships to cross the waterway. The original cost was projected at $5.25 billion, although construction has exceeded that figure.
Quijano, said last month the project was 96 percent complete. “An expansion of the Panama Canal has never been done, and we should all feel very good about where we are today,” he said.
Terminals in the region and the United States have improved their infrastructure in preparation for the the expanded Canal.