The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has confirmed that works to repair seeping sills in the waterway’s new third set of locks have been completed and tests on the reinforced structure have proved successful.

A team of specialists from the multi-billion-dollar project’s contractors, Grupo Unidos por el Canal, monitored the testing process in which water was gradually raised behind the Cocolí lock gate, located at the Pacific entrance to the canal, to the middle and lower chambers, where the leak was first detected last year.

The ACP said that following positive results from GUPC the locks were then inspected by independent experts and engineers from the Technological University of Panama (UTP).

“Following the completion of this work, GUPC will proceed to test the electromechanical components necessary for the expanded canal to operate,” said the canal authority.

News that the sills had failed in the new locks was confirmed by the ACP in August last year, which raised fresh fears that the timetable for the already delayed project was set to be pushed back even further. The ACP played down these claims at the time stating that it was still confident of opening its third locks for business in April this year.

These concerns however have since proved to be legitimate.

Instead, this April the ACP will use a chartered vessel for transit trial tests in the Atlantic locks, after which, depending on their success, a date for the expansion’s inauguration will be announced.

With the cracked sills repaired, the ACP said that the overall project is now 96% complete and, rather more cautiously than in previous statements, added that it expects to welcome the first vessel through its new locks later this year.