Photo: Panama Canal expansion
Panama Canal Authority administrator Jorge Quijano said in an interview published in the Spanish press Sunday that those in charge of the $5.25 billion expansion of the Central American nation’s inter-oceanic waterway are “prepared to be a little aggressive” and added that the project will be completed “as soon as possible.”
“We’re not going to sit here waiting for time to pass” without reacting after the consortium undertaking the expansion announced that it will suspend work if a cost overrun of some $1.6 billion is not acknowledged, Quijano told the Spanish daily El Pais.
The GUPC consortium (Grupo Unidos por el Canal), led by Spanish construction giant Sacyr Vallehermoso and including Italian firm Impregilo, Belgium-based Jan de Nul and Panama’s CUSA, formally advised the Panama Canal Authority on Dec. 30 that it would suspend work in three weeks if the authority does not agree to pay an additional $1.6 billion to cover cost overruns.
“With a stoppage there are going to be some additional delays,” the administrator said, but he added that he was confident about being “sufficiently agile ... so that, in the worst case, the project will be able to be resumed and completed.”
The consortium “had to attach additional information to the letter” announcing the work suspension to justify “each one of those charges, to evaluate them and see if they have any merit, which ... they do not have,” Quijano said.
He said that the authority had been “faithful to the contract” and had “paid religiously, so that the contractor may have a cash flow and continue with the work.”
Spanish Development Minister Ana Pastor is on her way to Panama, where she is scheduled to meet on Monday with Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli to seek a solution to the conflict.
Pastor scheduled the trip after Martinelli announced last Friday plans to travel to Spain and Italy to demand of their governments that the companies from their respective countries fulfill the terms of the original contract.