The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has reported the completion of sill reinforcements in the new locks of the Panama Canal.
In August a large crack was detected in one of the chambers of the new lock complexes, which was attributed to an insufficient steel reinforcement in the area while being subjected to stress from extreme condition testing.
The project contractor Grupo Unidos por el Canal (GUPC) had been working to fix and reinforce the structure.
According to the Panama Canal Authority, the filling of the Cocoli Locks had commenced and additionally first three sills in the Atlantic-facing Agua Clara will be reinforced as a precautionary measure which had begun on 4 February.
The filling of the locks are said to be followed by testing the quality of the structure as well as conducting an electromechanical testing on the filling and emptying systems of the new locks to ensure proper functionality and operability.
Panama Canal Administrator and CEO Jorge Quijano said: "Every day, we move closer to completion.
"But the key for us, as it has always been, is to do so in a way that maintains the highest standards are met, ensuring Canal operations for the next 101 years and more."
The project, also known as the Third Set of Locks Project, commenced in 2006. It involved raising the capacity of Gatun Lake and the construction of two new sets of locks to accommodate ships ferrying 14,000 containers of freight, tripling the size limit.
The expansion aims to improve navigational channels (dredging), water supply and create an access to the Pacific.
The programme was expected to be inaugurated in April; however the date has been pushed to May owing to the repair works.
Currently, less than 4% of work is left to complete the expansion programme.
Image: An aerial view of Gatun locks of Panama Canal. Photo: courtesy of Mariordo (Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz).