The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) is reportedly planning a new project worth up to $17bn, which will allow the canal to handle the world’s biggest ships.
Reuters reported that the authority is planning the installation of a fourth set of locks which is expected to serve bigger ships that can carry 20,000 containers.
Panama Canal Authority CEO Jorge Quijano was quoted by the news agency as saying: "Looking at our geology and the experience we gained with this current expansion, we estimate it’s a project that could cost between $16bn and $17bn."
According to Quijano, this proposed project can be completed within a period of 15 years. It can be built on financing options, including issuing of bonds and using the canal’s own revenues.
The ongoing expansion programme of the canal, which sees the installation of a third set of locks on the canal to accommodate larger Post-Panamax ships, is in its final stretch and expected to be completed by next year.
The present expansion will create a new lane of traffic along the canal through the construction of a new set of locks, enhancing the waterway’s capacity.
It is expected to double the canal’s capacity, having a direct impact on economies of scale and international maritime trade.
In January, ACP completed the installation of first gate for the new locks in the Pacific side, marking the 84% completion mark of the canal expansion programme.
The current expansion plan was originally set at $5.25bn, but costs rose later. The building consortium Grupo Unidos Por el Canal (GUPC) has submitted claims totalling $2.3bn to date, the news agency reported.
Image: The first gate for the new locks in the Pacific side installed using the self-propelled motorised wheel transporters (SPMTs). Photo: courtesy of Panama Canal Authority.