The Panama Canal Authority has initiated the search for a program manager who will help oversee the management of the $5.25-billion expansion project that includes the construction of two massive sets of new locks.

C. J. Schexnayder
Canal expansion management team will oversee 10 major contracts in a multi-year program estimated at $5.25 billion.

Last Friday the ACP – the quasi-governmental body that oversees the historic waterway – released a request for proposal for the program manager position. The winning firm will assist the ACP in the management of approximately 10 major contracts, interfacing with both design and construction teams.

"The selection of a reputable and experienced Program Manager is an important component in the success of the waterway's expansion," said ACP Engineering and Programs Management Director Jorge L. Quijano in a press release. "We are looking to attract a firm with global reach and proven experience in providing proactive solutions as we move forward with the program."

The ACP Board of Directors approved the use of an integrated program management model, wherein the Authority will designate tasks between its own staff and the selected firm. Interested companies have until July 18 to submit bids, ACP officials said.

The expansion project will add a new lane of traffic through the waterway by the construction of new larger sets of locks on each end of the canal. The upgrade to the waterway is necessary due to the increased shipping, according to the ACP. Currently, the canal is operating at about 90 percent capacity and the size of the existing locks cannot allow the passage of a new generation of post-Panamax ships that are up to 55 meters across and 427 meters long.

Work on the expansion began in earnest in 2002, when the ACP contracted with New York City-based consultant Parsons Brinckerhoff to put the expansion package together. As part of the $14.5-million contract, the Parsons Brinckerhoff team acted as the chief consultant on a broad spectrum of issues relating to expansion project other than the engineering itself.

“Basically we brought our Rolodex to the job. We gave them access to our experts from all over the world,” explained Laurie Mahon, the principal consultant for Parsons Brinckerhoff.

The new program manager will assist the ACP over the entirety of the third-lane expansion project which is slated for completion in 2014.

That will include “the integrated oversight and effective control” of the dredging of more than 50 million cubic meters of material both within the existing waterway and at both entrances; the dry excavation of nearly five miles of access channel and the $3.32-billion design-build contract for the two new sets of locks.

Last month, the bidding process kicked off with the first of five contracts for the excavation of 46.8 million cubic meters of material near the Pacific entrance of the canal. This excavation will be part of a 6.7-km access channel connecting the new Pacific locks and the canal’s navigation channel.

The ACP has previously announced that it intends to open bidding on the dredging of 6.5 million cubic meters of material at the canal’s Pacific entrance dredging this summer. The dredging of 7 million cubic meters for the Atlantic is set to be put up for tender next year.

Previous bid timelines set the tender for design and construction contract of the sets of locks for the third quarter of fiscal year 2007 and fall under a single contract. Their combined price tag of $3.35 billion is almost 60 percent of the entire project cost. Both sets of locks will be bid together in one design/build contract but the bidding will be in two stages.

There will be a prequalification process to establish the companies submitting bids have the proper qualifications to conduct the work, ACP officials said.

Information about this tender is now available through the ACP's online bidding system (SLI), or via the ACP's Web site.