PANAMA CITY, June 10 (Reuters) - The Panama Canal’s new set of locks will be operational by the January 2016 deadline, the canal’s chief said on Tuesday, after fears that a recent labor strike could have further delayed the project.
“In January 2016 the widened canal will be working,” Panama Canal Administrator Jorge Quijano told reporters. “We have already completed between 75 and 76 percent” of the engineering project.
Quijano said there could still be some work outstanding, but the new locks will be ready for use.
The strike, which ended on May 8, brought work to widen the 100-year-old canal to a halt for more than two weeks.
Panama’s largest construction union walked out on April 23 demanding higher wages from employers, halting work on hundreds of projects across the country.
The expansion was originally scheduled to be completed this year, but has been delayed several times, in part due to a dispute earlier this year because of about $1.6 billion in cost overruns.
The Panama Canal Authority and the consortium contracted for the project, led by Spain’s Sacyr and Italy’s Salini Impregilo, signed a deal in March to resolve the dispute and finish the project.
The expansion involves building a third set of locks to allow bigger ships to pass through the 50-mile (80-km) waterway. (Reporting by Elida Moreno; Writing by Joanna Zuckerman Bernstein; Editing by Christine Murray, Simon Gardner and Diane Craft)