Manus McMullan QC, Christopher Lewis QC and Peter Land help to secure US$272m for the Panama Canal Authority

11th May 2021

The International Chamber of Commerce has issued interim and final awards in favour of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) in another of the disputes arising from the Third Set of Locks Project – one of the largest engineering projects in the world at the time.

The awards concerned a number of elements including the basalt on site used to make aggregate, the concrete mix design, the foundation conditions and the contract terms concerning on-site testing laboratories.  Many elements of the disputes had previously been through the Dispute Adjudication Board (DAB).  The ACP claimed sums that it had paid the Contractor, GUPC, pursuant to the DAB rulings.  GUPC claimed sums for issues it had lost at the DAB, as well as additional sums for issues it had won at the DAB.

The awards found in favour of the ACP on the major issues of the basalt used to make aggregate and concrete mix design as well as rejecting GUPC’s shareholders’ claims for return on investment.  The ACP was awarded the sum of US$284,740,310.63 inclusive of costs.  The awards found in favour of GUPC on some of the issues relating to foundation conditions and in relation to the on-site laboratories.  GUPC was awarded the sum of US$12,919,008.93 in costs in respect of those issues.  GUPC was required to pay ACP a net sum of US$271,821,301.70.

Manus McMullan QC was lead advocate and argued on aggregate and foundation conditions.  Christopher Lewis QC argued on concrete mix design.  Peter Land argued on basalt and processing waste quantities, onsite laboratories and quantum.  They were instructed by Nick Henchie of Vinson & Elkins along with Raid Abu-Manneh of Mayer Brown.  Applicable law aspects were argued by Andres Jana of Bofill Mir & Alvarez Jana Abogados.

Karla G. Arias S. and Carlos Arrue Montenegro of the ACP’s legal department were a significant and integral part of the legal team, dealing with all parts of the case.

GUPC has paid the sums due to the ACP but has commenced proceedings in Miami, Florida, in an attempt to vacate the awards.  This is being opposed by the ACP.

This was the third dispute between GUPC and the ACP to go to a final award in international arbitration.  In the first dispute, argued by Manus McMullan QC, GUPC’s claims for $194 million and an extension of time of 246 days were rejected.  The ACP was awarded more than US$22 million in costs – see details here. In the second dispute, argued by Manus McMullan QC and Peter Land, GUPC was ordered to repay $847m in advances to the ACP, along with more than US$5 million in costs – see details here.

GUPC has notified further multi-billion dollar claims and there will be further hearings to determine them. Manus McMullan QC, Christopher Lewis QC and Peter Land are instructed on all the claims.

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