The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has set its sights on a further ambitious expansion project, worth an estimated US$17bn, to accommodate some of the largest vessels coming into service.
Already one of the world’s busiest maritime shipping routes, the Authority is looking to develop the Canal further within the next 15 years to accommodate ships of up to 20,000 teu capacity.
China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), a subsidiary of state-owned China Communications Construction Co, recently met with the ACP and has expressed interest in building and financing a fourth set of locks in Panama.
The announcement comes just days after the Authority nears completion of the current extensive development work on new locks to provide passage to larger ‘Post Panamax’ ships. This has seen the installation of the giant 22-storey high lock gates, while a third set of locks are being built on the canal.
The new locks include a complex reservoir system that will empty and fill the lock chambers using gravity rather than pumps.
Jorge Quijano, the Panama Canal Administrator, told Reuters: “Looking at our geology and the experience we gained with this current expansion, we estimate it’s a project that could cost between US$16n and US$17bn.”
The current expansion plan was originally valued at US$5.25bn, however costs rose and the administrator became locked in a dispute with building consortium Grupo Unidos Por el Canal (GUPC), which built the third set of locks. GUPC has submitted claims totalling US$2.3bn.