The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) reached a critical milestone for the Canal Expansion Program moving ahead on time and on budget. Culminating months of arduous work, the ACP received Grupo Unidos por el Canal’s (GUPC) performance and payment bonds and signed the contract. Today, ACP Executive Manager and Locks Project Management Division and Contracting Officer Jorge de la Guardia issued the Notice to Commence work slated for August 25, 2009.

The scope of work included in the contract encompasses the design and construction of the Canal’s new set of locks and water-saving basins on both the Pacific and Atlantic ends of the Canal.

“This event marks both an end and a beginning for the Canal Expansion Program,” said Jorge de la Guardia. “The fair, rigorous and transparent contracting process for the new set of locks has concluded. A new partnership with Grupo Unidos por el Canal has begun.”

GUPC, composed of Sacyr Vallehermoso S.A., Impregilo S.p.A., Jan De Nul n.v. and Constructora Urbana, S.A., together with its surety, Zurich American Insurance Company, submitted a $400 million performance bond and a $50 million payment bond on August 11.

“Today’s issuance of the Notice to Commence is, without a doubt, one of the most significant moments for the ACP since we broke ground on expansion in September 2007,” said Panama Canal Administrator/CEO Alberto Alemán Zubieta. “None of this would be possible today without the hard work of all the men and women of the ACP, our external consultant Deloitte and all the parties involved, which have been instrumental in executing an airtight contracting process.”

The new set of locks contracting process began August 28, 2007, when the ACP released its request for qualifications for the project. The ACP announced four prequalified consortia, comprised of 30 companies from 13 countries, and released its request for proposals December 21, 2007. From January 2008 through January 2009, the ACP held more than 50 meetings with the prequalified consortia and hosted field visits to the sites where the new set of locks will be built.