The Panama Canal administrator's chief executive said they will know in a few months whether the long-awaited expansion of its famous shipping canal will meet the 2014 deadline for completion or further delays.
The $5.3 billion canal overhaul is already six months behind it schedules, "In the next few months we will be able to say with more certainty when the work to be completed," Alberto Aleman, who heads the Panama Canal Authority, told Reuters late Friday on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia.
"We will know whether we will complete at the stipulated time or not."
The Panama Canal Authority is financially independent from the government, has set a completion date of October, 2014. Delays in laying concrete may create the hold-up, he said.
Delays in finishing the job come with penalties of up to $54 million, said Aleman, while early completion would be rewarded with $50 million..
Expansion of the 50-mile (80-km) canal will help boost economic growth in Panama, as the government will bring in more revenue from heavier traffic of commodities and other bulky goods
Traffic through the canal - a 13-hour stretch - has recovered since the 2008 global financial crisis, and since then Cargo volume have reached a record 322 million tonnes in 2011 alone, this year the authority are expects volume 330 million tonnes, said Aleman.
The canal, which took a decade to complete, was under U.S. control until Panama took it over in 1999.