Good news for global shipping: the Panama Canal expansion is set to open around June, the canal authority said this week. That puts the project relatively on schedule. The construction of locks, the core of the construction, might be 2 years late and 60 percent over budget, but it substantially follows the original scope and design. The construction team has started testing the new locks, the last step before opening.
With the expansion, the capacity of the canal will, for the first time, depend mainly on the weather. When ships pass through at the capacity of the locks and channels, the supply of fresh water that makes the locks operate will eventually run out, forcing a slowdown. This has historically been a possible constraint in very dry years in the Panama Canal, but now becomes a concern in all but the rainiest summers. With few options for expanding the fresh water supply to the canal, it may not be possible to expand its capacity any further than this.