When will it be completed?
I have a number of clients and customers who desire to know just when the Panama Canal Expansion Project is supposed to be completed. Official Government Answer? August 2014. To mark the 100th year anniversary opening of the original Canal. What is the Reality? Maybe up to another year after, that’s if they are lucky. It largely depends on who you might be listening to, but the important point is that there appears to be serious delays to the project, yet no one (officially speaking) is making meaningful statements about the delays.
The project to expand the Panama Canal (according to the Panama Canal Authority) had been 32% completed, as of December of 2011. Further, it was reported that as of 30 November 2011 a total of $4.257 billion dollars in contracts had been awarded, which is within the budget of $5.25 billion dollars approved to conduct the canal expansion program. Also there was the design and construction of the new third set of locks which was reported at 16% completed. The Pacific access channel in four phases has progressed by 65%, and the dredging of the entrance to the Pacific by 84%. Meanwhile, the deepening and widening of Gatun Lake and Gaillard Cut has advanced by 62%, and the dredging in the Atlantic access channel has advanced by 97%. While certainly these progress completions might sound impressive, they are a long way from pouring concrete which is why the overall project work to be done on the third set of locks is only considered to be as much as 16% completed. Likewise with respect to the entire total work that comprises the expansion project, there are many major key elements of the same, that are way behind projected completion estimates and continue to fall further behind with each passing day.
It is certainly noteworthy of late to mention the project has suffered several delays and setbacks. With allegations of inadequate management which has allowed valuable equipment to sit idle, There have been labor force strikes, and now the latest calamity to befall the project is the refusal to accept concrete which failed to meet compliance requirements and construction standards, which has reportedly caused an additional 6 month delay.
Basically the work to be completed will allow the Canal traffic to more than double,(with more and larger locks) and while it will also be able to accommodate far larger cargo and shipping vessels that must now stop in United States “East” and “West” coast ports to get their cargo either redistributed on more smaller vessels, or must await their “turn” into the Canal so to speak. So while the Canal is being praised by many to increase trade, it is being heralded by others who predict a large loss of income to those US Coastal Seaports.
According to Ronald D. White, of the Los Angeles Times – A major expansion of the Panama Canal is raising alarms in Southern California, where business, labor and public officials are warning that the project threatens to dent the region’s role in international trade. The $5.25-billion project will make the canal wider and deeper, allowing huge freighters from Asia to bypass West Coast ports and head straight to terminals on the Gulf Coast and East Coast. The neighboring ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which together handle about 40% of the nation’s imported Asian goods, could lose as much as a quarter of their cargo business by some estimates after the Panama expansion is completed. These U.S. ports, neighboring towns and railroads have launched improvement projects aimed at keeping them competitive. One such proposed project, for instance, would speed the loading of cargo onto trains; others eliminate bottlenecks or increase capacity so that the ports remain alluring to importers. But a coalition of business, labor and government contends that these efforts are jeopardized by opposition from some residents, environmental groups and others. Just recently, two members of the Long Beach City Council, for example, sought to block the construction of a new railroad freight complex near the ports, saying it would increase pollution and force small businesses to relocate.
In January of this year – About 6,000 canal project workers had gone out on strike for higher wages. The employees wanted the base wage raised from $2.90 per hour to $4.90, and the wage for the most skilled workers raised from $3.52 per hour to $7.10. Employees of the multinational construction company claimed the consortium management company has failed to pay them some overtime and vacation pay. They are also complaining about deficient workplace safety. The management company acknowledged in a press statement that some data-entry errors apparently had been committed when the company had switched to a new payroll system.
Faulty materials, cost overruns, idle equipment, and labor disputes all sound like typical “run of the mill” construction project obstacles. I guess however in this case, the questions also being raised are how well the actual work that is completed is being done. While yes, the work is certainly warranted, even more so will the potential users of the canal expect the work to be done correctly, safely, and will reflect an end canal resource that will operate efficiently and with as little impact on traversing reliability as is possible.
So, the Bottom Line Question as to When will it be completed? Well, that’s anybody’s guess it would seem, but for those of you who are thinking about making cruise plans with August of 2014 in mind, my best advice would be to rethink that idea. As a matter of fact you might even wish to consider such a cruise to traverse the new canal, at this point merely as a “bucket list” notion, with a potential eye on maybe, sometime in 2015, and just so you know, those sailings are not even available to look at yet.
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