Panama has set a June 26 date to inaugurate an expanded canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans following a multibillion-dollar expansion.

The $5.2 billion expansion was initially slated to be concluded in October 2014. But a string of work stoppages and disputes with the Italian conglomerate behind the expansion over cost overruns has led to repeated delays.

As part of the expansion project, wider locks with mechanical gates will reduce congestion and be able accommodate post-Panamex vessels, which are as long as three football fields and have the capacity to carry about 2.5 times the number of containers than held by ships currently using the canal.

President Juan Carlos Varela's administration made the announcement Wednesday.