PANAMA CITY–The consortium expanding the Panama Canal is making fresh claims for cost overruns totaling US$737 million, officials said Friday. Canal administrator Jorge Quijano told reporters that the Panama Canal Authority had received two claims on Tuesday that ��will be evaluated�� to determine if there is probable cause. But he warned that ��at first glance, the issues will be very difficult for the counterparty to justify.�� And in the latest setback for the behind-schedule, over-budget upgrade, a union representative said excavation work was on hold after negotiations broke down between the consortium and workers who have been on strike since Tuesday.
About 1,000 workers are on strike, demanding better safety and treatment. Talks between the two sides are due to resume Monday. One of the consortium’s latest claims, for US$333 million, is related to the weight of the gate for the third set of locks it is building for the canal �X at 55,000 tonnes, compared to the 35,000 tonnes initially planned. But Quijano pointed to a clause in the contract according to which the canal authority would pay up to the value of a gate weighing 49,000 tonnes. The second claim, for US$404 million, is due to delays in the fourth phase of excavation in the Pacific sector. The consortium, Grupos Unidos por el Canal, says that the delay in excavation work may mean it will not receive water needed to test the gates.