World Economy

Panama Canal Expansion Will Go Over Budget

Panama Canal Expansion Will Go Over BudgetPanama Canal Expansion Will Go Over Budget

Widening the Panama Canal will cost more than budgeted due to billions of dollars in overruns by the consortium carrying out the work, the canal’s administrator acknowledged.

Grupo Unidos por el Canal (GUPC), which is overseeing upgrades to the canal’s locks, has incurred overruns totaling $2.39 billion, Yahoo reported.

So far, one of the items has been approved by a mediating panel, worth $227 million.

So “ultimately yes it will cost us more than we had originally planned,” Canal administrator Jorge Quijano told journalists, during installation of a first Pacific lock-gate. Widening project manager Ilya Espino said “we know we are going over budget, what we don’t know yet is how far.”

The expansion, already a year behind schedule, had been forecast to cost $5.25 billion.

The project has already been plagued by delays, strikes and bitter disputes over cost overruns with the consortium, which is led by Spanish construction firm Sacyr. Initially scheduled for completion in 2014, the project’s due date has been pushed back to early 2016.

Work began in 2007 to expand the canal with a third set of locks to enable it to handle the modern mega-freighters that global shipping companies prefer.

An estimated five percent of global maritime trade passes through the canal, whose main users are the United States and China.

Meanwhile, Nicaragua launched construction last month on a rival canal, a $50 billion project that the Chinese firm behind it plans to complete in five years.

In Nicaragua, both ports and the canal will be designed to handle the modern mega-ships favored by global shipping firms, which can carry up to 25,000 containers. Even after completion of widening, the century-old waterway in Panama will only be able to handle ships carrying up to 12,000 containers.

  134th Anniversary

January 20 marks the 134th anniversary of the beginning of construction of one of the world’s greatest engineering feats, but one that has a dark history, socially, politically and economically.

The first attempt to construct the Panama canal through what was then the Colombia province of Panama began on the 20th of January 1881 by the French. But the cost and difficulty of construction exceeded expectations, and the French effort eventually went bankrupt. 22,000 lives were lost and $287 million was spent.

After this failure, United States President Theodore Roosevelt was interested in establishing the canal. In June, 1902 it was approved, if the necessary rights could be obtained. However, Colombia who owned Panama was not happy with the United States option.

Therefore, Roosevelt and the Panamanian business interests collaborated on a revolution. This is often cited as a paradigmatic example of United States gunboat diplomacy in Latin America. The United States assumed parental interests in Panama, and only handed the canal back to Panama in 1999.

The canal took a decade to complete, and officially opened August 15, 1914 and has provided an important maritime shortcut to avoid the lengthy and dangerous route around the bottom of South America, along with greater integration of the world economy.