Panama Canal Directors Approve Plans For New Port

Monday, January 05 2015 @ 02:34 pm EST

Contributed by: Don Winner

The Panama Canal’s board of directors has approved the development and construction of a transshipment port in Panama’s Corozal region at the Canal’s entrance to the Pacific.

Once complete, the port project, which is currently awaiting the final stage of approval from Panama’s National Assembly, will have a 5m teu capacity within a 120 ha area.

The two-phased plan includes the construction of a 2,081 m dock, a container yard, offices and warehouse facilities within a 120 ha area owned by the Panama Canal.

The first phase will comprise 1,350 m of docks, three docking positions for post-Panamax ships, and an approximate handling capacity of 3m teu.

At present, the Pacific side has an estimated capacity of 5m teu but after the expansion, demand on the Pacific side is expected to reach 6m teu and then 8m teu by 2020.

With a 16.3 m deep access canal and a depth of 18 m along the dock, the new terminal facility will provide docking facilities for five post-Panamax ships.

Panama Canal Administrator/CEO, Jorge Luis Quijano, said: “Advancing the terminal in the Corozal region is a priority. It is part of the Panama Canal’s goal to explore and develop areas, products and services that are close to our core business, and that add substantial value to our customers as a one-stop gateway with multiple services.”

He added: “This new facility will result in a significant increase in inter-oceanic cargo traffic, enabling the Canal to add value to the route and customers, consolidate Panama’s position as an international logistics and maritime hub.”

If the National Assembly does approve the bill, which it is expected to review in the coming days, the Panama Canal intends to proceed with the development and tender process by calling for bids to hire a company that will be responsible for all stages of the project.

The contract will, most likely, consist of a 20-year concession, renewable once for 20 years.

Meanwhile, an arbitration court in Miami is now assessing two new claims for cost overruns of almost US$740m submitted by the consortium working on the Panama Canal expansion.

Quijano said that the consortium, Grupo Unidos por el Canal, formed by Spain’s Sacyr, Italy’s Salini Impregilo, Belgium’s Jan de Nul and Panamanian company CUSA, has now presented a total of $2.3bn in claims for overruns.

He added: “We’re not taking these claims at face value. We’ve received claims (previously) that, upon review by a third party, have ended in nothing.”

Delays to the project are largely due to the construction of a third set of locks; a process which was orginially supposed to cost $3.2bn.

Quijano told Reuters that he expects the new locks to be delivered by January 2016 and the expanded canal to begin operations two to three months later.

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