Monday 'crucial' for Panama Canal
In this Jan. 11, 2014 photo, cargo ships wait to pass through the Gatun locks at the Panama Canal in Gatun, north of Panama City. The Panama Canal is being expanded to accommodate a new generation of larger ships, known as post-Panamax, which have more than twice the carrying capacity of those able to pass through the canal today. But cost overruns are threatening a work stoppage. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)
Photo by AP
PANAMA CITY — On a hot September morning, a powerful explosion demolished a rocky slope on the banks of the Panama Canal, announcing to the world a gigantic expansion that the canal's managers promised would transform global trade when it was completed in 2014, on time and under budget.
U.S. ports invested billions of dollars in dredging, raising bridges and renovating docking infrastructure to accommodate the new generation of larger ships that could pass through the expanded canal.
Now more than four years after construction began, these ports and the Panama Canal Authority are facing the prospect of a work stoppage on the $5.25 billion expansion over a financial dispute — an unexpected blow to a project long seen by many as the epitome of competent management in a region where major infrastructure initiatives tend to be marred by cost overruns, delays and shoddy workmanship.
The Spanish-led consortium hired to handle the biggest part of the canal expansion says it will halt work by Monday if the canal authority does not come up with the funds to cover $1.6 billion in cost overruns, while the authority insists the consortium live up to the terms of the original contract.
The expansion project, now 72 percent complete, would double the capacity of the 50-mile canal, which carries between 5 and 6 percent of world commerce.
“Monday will be a crucial day in the history of the Panama Canal and for us as a country that wants to carry out projects of great size,” Jose L. Ford, president of the Panamanian Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture, said after meeting with canal authority directors this week.
A stop-and-restart of the canal expansion, one of the largest construction efforts in the world, could mean a delay of months or even years, setting back the arrival of bigger ships and higher fees to ports along the entire U.S. East Coast, some of which have been carrying out their own improvements.
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments â either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.