Panama, 2 August. The agreement signed a few days ago between Panama Canal Authority (ACP) and the Grupo Unidos por el Canal consortium (GUPC), definitively released the financing for the completion of the expansion of the waterway between the Atlantic and the Pacific, a vital project for world trade that will enable the passage of ships with three times the current carrying capacity.
The signing of this document comes after months of intense negotiations, and, in ratifying the contents of the Memorandum of Understanding signed in March this year, incorporates the changes to the 2009 contract, through which GUPC (consisting of the Spanish company Sacyr, the Italian company Salini Impregilo, the Belgian company Jan De Nul, and the Panama company Cusa) was awarded the "Third set of locks" project.
The agreement provides for the completion of the project by 31 December 2015, with a number of intermediate steps, such as the delivery of the lock gates (8 out of 16 have already arrived in Panama) by February 2015.
From the financial perspective, to bring the works to completion, the agreement establishes a co-financing between ACP and GUPC for an additional US$100 million each, and the contribution by GUPC of another US$400 million resulting from the conversion of the performance bond from the insurance company Zurich into additional financing for completion.
At the same time, the various claims by GUPC regarding unexpected costs incurred during the works will be settled through an international arbitration before the Court of Miami (USA), which on 21 July this year had already initiated the discussion on a tranche US$180 million.
In addition, in the new relationship with the Canal administration, the executive leadership of the Third set of locks project has shifted from the Spanish to the Italians: during the heat of the negotiations a manager of the Salini Impregilo Group, Giuseppe Quarta, was appointed as CEO of the GUPC consortium. "GUPC will make every effort to ensure that the collaboration with ACP is beneficial and brings the project to a successful completion", commented Quarta, who also expressed his gratitude for the decisions approved by the Authority and thanked all the partners of the Consortium.
The Third set of locks project, which currently employs around 7,500 people, involves the construction of a new canal that will add to the two existing canals, whose 100th anniversary will be celebrated on 15 August this year. The entry into operation of the new canal will allow the passage of ships known as PostPanamax, almost 400 meters in length and capable of transporting 13 thousand containers, tripling the current capacity thanks to gigantic sliding lock gates, designed and built in Italy, as well as a complex and spectacular mechanism of successive opening and closing of water chambers capable of bringing ships from one ocean to the other, overcoming the height difference of 27 metres of the Gatun lake, the largest artificial lake in the world, situated between the two oceans.
The works for expansion of the Canal have reached 77% completion.