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posted: 1/19/2014 4:12 PM

Panama Canal work not likely to be halted Monday

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  • A small boat takes in a line of rope from a cargo ship while entering to the Pedro Miguel locks at the Panama Canal near Panama City. The current canal expansion project would double its capacity.

      A small boat takes in a line of rope from a cargo ship while entering to the Pedro Miguel locks at the Panama Canal near Panama City. The current canal expansion project would double its capacity.
    ASSOCIATED PRESS

 
Associated Press

PANAMA CITY -- The Spanish-led consortium hired to handle the biggest part of the Panama Canal expansion said Sunday it does not foresee halting work Monday, but added that it's an option if there is no resolution to a financial dispute.

The canal-building consortium known as United for the Canal said in a brief statement that stopping the expansion "is not a scenario being considered at this moment." But it says it's entitled to suspend work any time after Monday.

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The group has given Panamanian Canal authorities a Sunday deadline to come up with the funds to cover $1.6 billion in cost overruns. The authority insists the consortium live up to the terms of the original contract.

No agreement had been reached as of Sunday.

The expansion project, now 72 percent complete, would double the capacity of the 50-mile (80-kilometer) canal, which carries between 5 and 6 percent of world commerce.

The consortium blames the cost overruns largely on problems with the studies carried out by the Panamanian authority before work began. It says that geological obstacles it has encountered while excavating have prevented it from getting the basalt it needs to make the massive amounts of cement required for the expansion.

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