Panama Canal Expansion

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Panama Canal Expansion


The Panama Canal Authority (ACP, Autoridad del Canal de Panama) closed Thursday the international tender called for the conceptual design studies of post-panamax locks. Many international and domestic engineering companies from several countries participated in the tender. The Panama Canal Authority rules and regulations do not allow disclosure of the number and names of participating companies before the award of the contract, which had been originally scheduled October 1st but postponed until October 18th at the companies' request. ACP officials said they would announce a winner within the following two-three months. Conclusions of the concept design studies are expected within twelve months after initiation of contracted work.

Two independent contracts will be adjudicated to develop conceptual designs for four different configurations of post-panamax locks at the Atlantic and Pacific sites. The first contract is presently being negotiated directly with the US Army Corps of Engineers for two- and three-lift locks configuration for the Atlantic site. The second contract will be the result of the international competitive solicitation, closed October 18th, for one- and three-lift locks configuration for the Pacific site.

After many internal analysis "four locks configurations were selected involving single and multiple-lift options and lateral water saving basins" ACP engineering and projects director Agustin Arias said. Late June, the Panama Canal Authority requested a proposal from the US Army Corps of Engineers for two of the configurations and began direct negotiation with the engineering organization. Locks configuration on the Pacific side has to take in consideration tide difference fluctuation and also distinct soil quality. "We want to cover all the mayor elements, and promote creativity and innovation to produce a cost effective design", said Arias. "That is the reason why we decided to award two independent contracts".

The company winning the international tender would be able to participate in other bids related to the expansion projects and even on more advanced locks designs but not in bids for the program management and project assessment advisory services. The reason is that the winner will also be responsible for reviewing and evaluating plans for canal expansion components that include locks designs.

The ACP, for the international tender, will apply the system of negotiated bidding based on the best value and the proposals will be evaluated based on the combined result of the technical criteria established in the terms of reference and proposed price.

The Panama Canal Authority had been working on canal expansion studies for several years and came to a preliminary conclusion that new locks should be designed for large 12,500 TEU´s container vessels. Actually, only 4,500 TEU´s container ships can transit the waterway. ACP officials say that the dimensions of post-panamax locks would be 61m width by 427m length and by 18.3metres of clearance (compared to the existing 33.5m by 305m by 12.5m) but depending on the results of marketing investigation, post-panamax locks dimensions might be adjusted.

“The conceptual design studies will help us determine the most advantageous lock configuration”. Full technical feasibility studies and detailed costs estimates- would be put to tender "after the best lock configuration has been selected"