Ex-Administrator blamed as construction halts at Panama Canal


Former Administrator, Alberto Aleman, has been put in the firing line as work grinds to a halt on the Panama Canal.

President Ricardo Martinelli has suggested that the current breakdown in labour and communication between the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) and the Grupo Unidos Por El Canal (GUPC) could have been predicted by former Canal Administrator, Alberto Aleman.

The expansion which began in 2009 will enable the safe transit of 12,000 TEU sized vessels across the canal. However, construction which is now nine months behind schedule has come to a halt.

President Martinelli said on local television: “He (Aleman) is very responsible for everything that is happening. Everyone here knew the state Sacyr was in, that it had financial problems

“European companies in general and particularly those in construction, many of them are having problems, I think he knew and should have said it.”

GUCP, the consortium of contractors composing of Spain’s Sacyr Vallehermoso, Impregilo, Jan De Nul and Panama’s Constructora Urbana announced that work would stop on the build unless the ADP forward a payment of US$1.6 billion to cover cost-overruns.

Aleman, who led the ACP from 1999-2012 was responsible for accepting the $3.1bn bid that GUCP put forward to head the project.

However diplomats and officials expressed doubts over the amount put forward by GUCP; $1bn less than their closest rivals, US construction giant, Betchtel.

Concerns were no doubt furthered by the financial state of Sacyr at the time. With the Spanish economic collapse at the end of 2008, the company was dealing with 14.5bn Euros of debt and a 90 percent decline in share value from an all time peak in 2006.

With construction of the third lock grinded to a halt, current head of the ACP, Jorge Quijano, has announced that the project will be completed by 2015 “with or without GUCP.”

According to the Financial Times, GUCP responded to the ACP on Wednesday saying it “remains ready to co-finance up to 50 percent of the $1.6bn in cost needed to complete the third set of locks project.

“GUPC and its shareholders are not a bank and cannot be expected to put into the project such amounts without a reasonable time to pay and allow for a fair determination of liability.”

Talks continue.

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