A construction consortium from Spain, Mexico and Costa Rica has outbid three other competitors for the second-largest contract awarded in the Panama Canal’s $5.2-billion Third Lane Expansion effort, eclipsed only by the price tag for design and construction of the waterway’s new locks. Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas, S.A. (FCC), along with Mexico’s Empresas ICA and Constructora MECO of Costa Rica, submitted a bid of $268 million for the fourth and final contract to construct a 6.7-kilometer-long access channel on the canal’s Pacific side.

Panama Canal Authority
Rendered photo illustrates dam structure (center in green) that will be built because of water level differences of the new channel.

The three other bids for the contract were submitted by a team led by Panama City-based ISC Panam� bid, which bid $295 million; a consortium of Belgian dredging firm Jan de Nul and China’s CHEC, which bid $359 million and one from Brazilian contractor Odebrecht at $380 million. “We are very pleased to see that the competition among top construction companies has resulted in bids that are within the budget,” says Jorge L. Quijano, executive vice president of engineering and program management for the Panal Canal Authority, the quasi-governmental body that oversees the waterway. Officials will award the contract in early 2010 after analyzing technical and financial submissions.

When completed in 2014, the Third Lane Expansion is expected to double the canal’s cargo capacity. The project not only will increase the number of vessels that can traverse its 80-kilometer-long length, but also permit passage of massive post-Panamax ships that the current locks are too small to accommodate. The Pacific Access channel is required to connect the Panama Canal’s existing navigation channel and new locks to be constructed on the waterway’s Pacific side.