The Government of Panama said today that it hired a renowned US law firm to deal with the claim filed with the UN by the Spanish construction company Sacyr regarding the conflict over cost overruns in the expansion of the interoceanic canal.
"The State has hired a recognized legal team to defend the interests of the Republic of Panama and from the Ministries of the Presidency, Foreign Affairs and Economy and Finance, this process is being followed up," a Panamanian Foreign Minitry source told Efe.
That same source confirmed that it is the Foley Hoag office, based in Boston (United States) and specialized in international litigation and arbitration.
The lawsuit was filed by Sacyr, which led the international consortium that built the expansion of the Panama Canal, "before the United Nations Commission for International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) for alleged damages and losses caused by insufficient prior information received from the time of construction of the Third Set of Locks," added the source.
The Spanish construction company explained on Monday that this measure seeks to strengthen the protection of their rights, since it considers that the actions of Panama violate some obligations included in the agreement for the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments between Spain and Panama.
These obligations include giving fair and equitable treatment, not subjecting Sacyr's investment to arbitrary or discriminatory measures and not expropriating the company's investment without due legal process and compensation.
The notification of request of arbitration before the UN does not establish the economic amount of the claims, which will be detailed pursuant to the progress of the procedure, according to the company.
The measure adopted by Sacyr, leader of Grupo Unidos por el Canal (GUPC), is another step in the legal conflict that the consortium maintains with the interoceanic canal due to the cost overruns in the construction of the third set of locks, inaugurated in June 2016.
GUPC, also made up by Italian Impregilo, Belgian Jan De Nul and Panamanian CUSA, signed in 2009 the construction contract for the new locks for 3,118 million dollars, but the final cost has turned out to be much higher.
The contract signed at the time by the consortium and the Panama Canal Authority (ACP), the autonomous body that manages the water route, established an internal system to resolve possible disputes and, in the final analysis, included the possibility of resorting to the International Court of Arbitration of Miami (USA).
Last July it was learned that the consortium had raised to the arbitration phase claims amounting to 5,393 million dollars (about 5,393 million euros) and disputes worth 5,199 million dollars of those that were pending to resolve.
The channel, built by the United States at the beginning of the last century and transferred to Panama on December 31, 1999, close to 6 percent of world trade passes and connects more than 140 sea routes and 1,700 ports in 160 different countries.