As the new year begins, I find myself reflecting on 2015 with a great sense of pride in our accomplishments and with much anticipation for the year ahead when we will inaugurate our Expanded Canal.
During the past year, the Panama Canal continued to invest in its infrastructure, equipment replacement and augmentation. We made major improvements to our maritime training facilities and programs, as well as investments in high-precision vessel tracking technology that we will soon deploy on transiting vessels. The work achieved thus far in the Expansion Program has been significant, and it is now 96 percent complete.
Additionally, we widened two vital channels to 300 meters, including the Pacific entrance of the Canal, which we will initiate dredging on this month. This will improve the flow and safety of vessels undertaking transit, and heading to or leaving ports on the Pacific side of the waterway.
Although the past year was not free of challenges, we have taken corrective measures to address them—all the while diligently maintaining our commitment to providing safe and reliable service. On behalf of the Panama Canal Authority, I would like to reassure you personally that work continues to complete the new locks with the quality established in the contract and to the standards customers are accustom to and expect.
GUPC’s reinforcement of the lock-sills will be completed this month. Subsequently, the ACP will initiate acceptance tests on the locks and associated elements to ensure quality. This will be followed by vessel trials and training transits through the new Atlantic locks. I expect the Panama Canal Expansion to be inaugurated by the second quarter of 2016, with the commercial opening to follow shortly thereafter.
For the Expanded Canal to be built for the long haul, the focus must remain on quality and testing. This will ensure that the Canal continues to provide safe and reliable service for the next century and beyond. I am truly excited to complete the milestones that remain ahead in this final stretch of the Expansion Program. The first-ever expansion of the Canal is a tremendous feat that would not have been possible without the support of the people of Panama, our dedicated workforce, and our loyal customers and partners.
On behalf of the Panama Canal Authority and its nearly 10,000 employees, we thank you for your continued support.
To the next 101 years and beyond,
Jorge L. Quijano,
Panama Canal Authority Administrator and CEO