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Thursday, April 24 2014 @ 10:25 PM EDT

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Panama seeks to expand canal capacity

Canal Expansion By Robert Wright in London: Panama is seeking international support to add a $5.25bn “third lane” to its famous canal by 2014. The expansion of the canal, which already carries 5 per cent of world trade, would transform global commerce by letting the biggest, most modern vessels sail direct from Asia to the east coast of the US. Panama needs to win the support of its own people in a referendum, as well as that of international financiers, who will provide half the cost of the project. On a visit to London last week to explain the plans, Samuel Lewis Navarro, Panama’s foreign minister and vice-president, said that, if the project was not built, the canal’s currently rising share of world trade traffic would start falling. Some sections of the canal and its 12 locks, which could accommodate every ship afloat when it opened in 1914, are too small for the biggest container ships of today. The canal also faces a capacity shortage. Following China’s manufacturing boom, it is carrying nearly 90 per cent of its annual capacity of voyages.
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Supply chain: Smooth sailing at ports

Canal Expansion The National Retail Foundation (NRF) predicts little congestion at maritime ports this fall (peak season), compared to recent years. This according to NRF and global-trade thinktank Global Insight. NRF and Global Insight share a “port tracker” service, which monitors global ports to track trends, and sees no congestion at ports now, or in truck and rail systems, in what is traditionally a ramp-up to peak season. The backlog of ships without reservations at the Panama Canal has been reduced compared with last month. NRF describes this as a “relief,” after labor shortages and port shutdowns plagued global trade in recent summers. The US ports surveyed handled 1.32 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of container traffic in April, which was a 6.2 percent jump over march and a 10 percent jumpt from April 2005. Over the six-month forecast period of the report, volume is expected to climb to a peak of 1.49 million TEU in October, up 8.7% from October 2005. The study looks at inbound container volume, the availability of trucks and railroad cars to move cargo out of the ports, labor conditions and other factors that affect cargo movement and congestion.
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COSCO CEO Endorses Panama Canal Expansion

Canal Expansion Panama City, Panama June 14, 2006 – Captain Wei Jiafu, President and CEO of China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO), recently endorsed the potential Panama Canal expansion, citing that a more modern, competitive, 21st century Canal will benefit the global economy and world trade. Nearly five percent of total world trade transits the Panama Canal. Of this trade, 88 percent flows between the United States and Asia. In a speech given in Panama last month, Captain Wei stated that with the rapid development of China’s economy, the Panama Canal becomes more important as a vital link for China to import and export goods to and from the East Coast of the United States, the Caribbean and the East Coast of South America. “I fully support this expansion plan. I believe that the expansion of the Canal will enable more ships to utilize the Panama Canal. It will not only strengthen Panama financially by bringing considerable revenues, promote development of Panama’s maritime industry, and ensure Panama’s position as the regional maritime center, but it will also benefit the growth of regional and world trade,” said Captain Wei.
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Panama hopes to sail into 'First World'

Canal Expansion The first efforts to build the Panama canal more than 120 years ago led to about 30 000 deaths, landslides and personal humiliation for the legendary French engineer, Ferdinand de Lesseps. Now an attempt is being made to launch a vast venture which would carve a new lane through the country and catapult Panama from "the Third World to the First" in the space of less than a decade. The expansion is being vigorously promoted by the President of Panama, Martín Torrijos, son of Omar Torrijos, the subject of Graham Greene's book Getting to Know the General. It was Omar Torrijos who, in 1977, successfully negotiated with the United States president Jimmy Carter to transfer control of the canal from America to Panama, which eventually took place in 2000. To its supporters, the expansion is a magical solution to the ills of a country where 40% live below the poverty line. To its detractors, it is a risky venture with unknown environmental, social and economic risks.
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Panama Canal Authority announces fiscal year 2006 2nd quarter metrics

Canal Expansion PANAMA CITY, Panama--The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has announced second quarter (Q2) operational metrics for fiscal year 2006. During Q2, there was an increase in net tonnage, total transits and transits of Panamax vessels. Additionally, there was a decrease in official accidents. Canal Waters Time (CWT), the average time it takes a vessel to transit the Canal including waiting time for passage, increased in Q2 and booking slot utilization remained steady. These metrics are based on operations from January through March, the second quarter of the ACP's 2006 fiscal year. Panama Canal/Universal Measurement System (PC/UMS) tonnage increased 5.7 percent - to 75.0 million PC/UMS tons from 70.9 million PC/UMS tons. In addition to a spike in tonnage, the Canal realized an increase in traffic. Total Canal transits increased 3.5 percent - to 3,862 transits from 3,730. Moreover, transits of Panamax vessels (100 feet or more in beam and the largest vessels that can pass through the Canal) increased 7.5 percent - to 1,501 transits from 1,396.
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Panama Pushes Canal Increase Abroad

Canal Expansion Panama, Jun 13 (Prensa Latina) Without ruling out important internal debates, the issue of a Panama Canal extension received a new government boost in an international tour to promote it. Panamanian Foreign Minister and First Vice President Samuel Lewis Navarro is touring Europe to campaign for the extension plan in Britain and France as he did earlier in Vienna. In the Austrian capital, Lewis Navarro extolled the initiative that includes construction of a third set of locks over seven years to expedite passage through the inter oceanic road. The diplomat and President Martin Torrijos are carrying out similar efforts in other European nations, the US, Mexico, Colombia and members of the Central American Integration System. In addition, the Panama Canal Authority has successfully promoted the project at meetings of the International Consultant Committee. However, the matter continues to receive criticism at home where detractors consider the project absurd as it is beyond the reasonable reach of a small country with an underdeveloped economy.
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Spain's FCC, ACS, Ferrovial mull 5.250 bln usd Panama Canal contract

Canal Expansion MADRID (AFX) - Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas SA, Actividades de Construccion y Servicios SA and Grupo Ferrovial SA are in talks with Panama's government over a 5.250 bln usd contract to extend the Panama Canal, Expansion reported, without citing a source. If the extension project goes ahead, the Canal's loading capacity will be increased by 82 pct to 510 mln tonnes by 2025, the newspaper noted. The Panamanian authorities plan to call a referendum this autumn to approve the project, with work likely to start in 2007, Expansion said, adding that completion is seen in seven years.
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Prosecutor Asks for the Firing of Two AMP Employees

Canal Expansion After filing formal charges accusing two civil employees of using state resources to promote the expansion of the Panama Canal, the Public Prosecutor of the Electoral Office requested the firing of the two, who work for the Panamanian Maritime Authority. Domingo Espino, head of the port of Mensabé, and Isolda Saavedra, coordinator of personnel in that office, used an official computer to make invitations with the logo of the Popular Party, for an event on the expansion. The AMP said that it would take measures but on Friday the employees were still working in their positions.

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Expanding the Panama Canal

Canal ExpansionBY ROBERT R. McMILLAN: There is no doubt that Panama can take on the canal expansion successfully. Hopefully that will mean a totally transparent process for construction contracts and financing. A few weeks ago, Martin Torrijos, president of Panama, announced a well thought-out plan to enlarge the Panama Canal and bringing it up to the needs of the future. Before getting into the specifics, some history, and the challenges going forward, I would be remiss if I did not commend the current management of the Panama Canal Authority, the government agency responsible for operating the canal. The current administrator of the canal, Alberto Aleman, is a United States-educated engineer. He and his Panamanian predecessor, Gilberto Guardia, could not be more professional managers. Each one could very well be running a major company in this country. Panama is fortunate to have had such fine people in charge of the canal during the transition and after its transfer from the United States on Dec. 31, 1999.
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Panama Canal Announces FY 2006 2nd Qtr Metrics

Canal Expansion PANAMA CITY, Panama, June 6, 2006 – The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) announced today second quarter (Q2) operational metrics for fiscal year 2006. During Q2, there was an increase in net tonnage, total transits and transits of Panamax vessels. Additionally, there was a decrease in official accidents. Canal Waters Time (CWT), the average time it takes a vessel to transit the Canal including waiting time for passage, increased in Q2 and booking slot utilization remained steady. These metrics are based on operations from January through March, the second quarter of the ACP's 2006 fiscal year. Panama Canal/Universal Measurement System (PC/UMS) tonnage increased 5.7 percent – to 75.0 million PC/UMS tons from 70.9 million PC/UMS tons. In addition to a spike in tonnage, the Canal realized an increase in traffic. Total Canal transits increased 3.5 percent – to 3,862 transits from 3,730. Moreover, transits of Panamax vessels (100 feet or more in beam and the largest vessels that can pass through the Canal) increased 7.5 percent – to 1,501 transits from 1,396.
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Govt to Examine Panama Canal Bid

Canal Expansion Panama, Jun 5 (Prensa Latina) President Martin Torrijos´ Cabinet is expected to look into the controversial Panama Canal Authority proposal to enlarge the Panama Canal, so it can be discussed next week by the National Assembly. According to official sources, Parliament President Elias Castillo asserted the deputies will examine the offer to enlarge the canal no later than June 12. So far the government has made no official statement on the issue, but observers believe the ministerial meeting is unnecessary because Martin Torrijos and his main collaborators support the 5.25 billion dollar project to build more locks. After the government and the National Assembly sessions are held, conditions will be favorable to hold a national referendum to approve the Panama Canal extension. Polls show most Panamanians now support expanding the inter-oceanic facility; however, the number of opponents to the plan is increasing and joining ex President Jorge Illueca´s rejection of the initiative. Opponents maintain that engaging in a billion dollar project to be carried out in seven years is unjustifiable and will push the small-economy country into permanent debt. http://www.plenglish.com/Article.asp?ID=%7B249DC1CB-A629-4771-9B45-CEC43014D67B%7D&language=EN


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The wager of Panama

Canal Expansion By Mark Joyce: Of the many foreign-policy decisions for which former United States president Jimmy Carter has been vilified over the years, one of the most heinous in the eyes of his critics is the 1977 treaty under which the US surrendered sovereignty over the Panama Canal. Even as the protracted transfer was concluded at midnight on 31 December 1999 – nineteen years after Carter left office – there were dark mutterings that a terrible mistake was being committed. Much of this concern reflected little more than a chauvinistic belief that a bunch of corrupt, work-shy Latinos were not up to the task of running one of the great monuments of American engineering genius. Even among supporters of the transfer, however, there was widespread acknowledgment that Panama still had much to prove. A fledgling democracy, with no armed forces of its own, a history of dependence on the United States and a GDP smaller than that of Kenya was now assuming full administrative responsibility for one of the world's most important trade routes. Success was far from assured.

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Hotel Owners and PPC Trying to Stop Mega-Port

Canal Expansion Hotel owners are asking President Martin Torrijos to relocate the plannen "mega-port" project. Representatives from the Panamanian Hotel Owners Association (APATEL) said that the construction of the project at the proposed site will make the area an industrial zone and will harm tourism and the hotel business. The mega-port project will require an investment between $600 to $800 million dollars and will general hundreds of jobs. The Panama Ports Company is also trying to stop the construciton of the mega-port, which will compete directly with them. The Panamanian Maritime Authority (AMP) will hold meetings with companies that have indicated an interest in building the project on 6 June. In addition, there's an official delegation from China in town this week to express their interest in the Panama Canal expansion project, and to pressure Torrijos to abandon Panama's diplomatic recognition of Taiwan.
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From sea to sea: PANAMA CANAL

Canal Expansion MITCHELL SMYTH - One hundred years ago, a colossal project was begun to lift ships over mountains. Eight years later, a canal linked the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and saved a 12,500-kilometre trip around South America. They said it couldn't be done. And it couldn't. "It" meant a ditch, at sea level, across the Isthmus of Panama, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific at the place where only 80 kilometres of land separates the two oceans. A century ago debate was swirling here in the newly created country of Panama - which until 1903 had been a province of Colombia - over how to build the canal. The advantages were obvious: it would slice 12,500 kilometres off the sea journey between the U.S. east and west coasts, a tremendous saving in time and money for an emerging industrial country. The French had tried it, between 1881 and 1898, but heat, rain and disease (especially yellow fever and malaria) defeated them. And their engineering was suspect. Having built the Suez Canal, they thought they could do the same in Panama. But Suez was a sea-level canal, through sandy desert; in Panama the mountains of the Continental Divide ran down the spine of the country.

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Frenadeso and Campasinos Against the ACP

Canal ExpansionThe National Front for the Defense of Economic and Social Rights (Frenadeso) and the Farmers Movement Against Dams (CCCE) blamed the Panamanian government and the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) of trying to decieve the public by publishing false information regarding the expansion of the Panama Canal to convince the people to support the measure and to vote in favor of the expansion in an upcoming referendum. Andrés Rodriguez, president of Frenadeso said that one of the "lies" detected in the the ACP report the cost of the project at $5.25 billion dollars, which he says is a false number because the report did not include the interest costs that will raise the cost to at least $6.6 billion. The ACP says that the project will pay for itself through toll increases. Jesus Ruiz of the CCCE doubts that plan to reuse water will avoid the need to flood their lands. He said that the ACP maintains concessions to construct three hydroelectric projects on Indio, Caño Sucio and Coclé del Norte rivers that will need dams to work. Also, they ask president Martín Torrijos why he has not countermanded Law 44 of 1999 as he promised to do last 24 April.
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Panama Canal International Advisory Board 12th Meeting

Canal Expansion This week marks the twelfth meeting of the Panama Canal Advisory Board. Traveling to Panama from all over the world, the Board members met to review and deliberate the study prepared by ACP on the proposed Canal expansion. The Advisory Board reviewed all facts pertaining to this historic undertaking, and believes that the results reflect a comprehensive and realistic appraisal of all issues involved. We commend the Canal leadership, the Country’s leadership, and the Panamanian people for the extraordinary work and professionalism that brings us to this momentous, sovereign decision by Panama. As Board members we consider it a privilege to share our thoughts with you. As evidenced by the signatures below, the Advisory Board unanimously believes Canal expansion with a third set of locks should be viewed as a matter of high priority for Panama, as the Canal today is almost at full capacity. World trade is growing at a substantial pace. The forecasted demand growth is realistic, but its benefit to Panama will only be captured if it proceeds with the Canal expansion as soon as practically possible. The associated costs will be paid over a reasonable period of time by the Canal users, leaving no residual debt to Panama or the Panamanian people.
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26 Companies Bidding to Build Megaport

Canal Expansion A total of 26 companies have acquired the documents necessary to participate in the bidding to build and operate the "megaport" project on the Pacific end of the Panama Canal. The Panamanian Maritime Administration (AMP) has called a meeting for next Tuesday, 23 May, with representatives of the companies that will be participating in the bidding process. The harbor project will be developed within a land area measuring 1,114 hectares and will be built in three phases. First stage will consist of the construction of a total of 1,600 meters of linear wharf area, with a depth of 16.75 meters and capacity to handle Post Panamax ships.
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Panama unveils plan to double the Canal’s capacity

Canal Expansion The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) is recommending the building of a new lane along the Panama Canal that would double capacity at an estimated cost of 5.25 billion US dollars. The ACP says the expansion “will be paid entirely by users of the canal through a graduated toll system”. The recommendation was formally put to the Panamanian Government in a set piece last week and according to a public opinion poll published Sunday in the country’s main newspaper “La Prensa”, 57% of the population support the project. The authority said after several years of analyzing and reviewing hundreds of studies and projections, it is recommending the expansion of the Panama Canal. “Our vision is clear — this project will be for the benefit of the people of Panama and world trade. “Panama’s geographic location is its destiny — we aim to be at the centre of global trade and become a great maritime hub. The time is right and the time is now,” ACT CEO Alberto Alemán Zubieta said.
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Torrijos Presents Canal Expansion Plan to Houston Port Authority

Canal Expansion HOUSTON - Panamanian President Martin Torríjos yesterday presented the proposal to expand the Panama Canal to James Edmonds, Chairman of the Port of Houston Authority. Also at the presentation were Alberto Alemán Zubieta, Administrator and CEO of the Panama Canal Authority and Thomas Kornegay, Executive Director of the Port of Houston Authority. The expansion of the Panama Canal would entail the creation of a new lane of traffic along the Canal through the construction of a new set of locks. Expansion would greatly benefit the Port of Houston, bringing an increase in traffic and helping to invigorate the Houston economy. The Port of Houston currently ranks first in the United States for foreign tonnage and as the sixth largest port in the world. "The benefits of a Canal expansion to the Port of Houston are many. It would allow for Houston to compete with East Coast ports, handling the same larger and wider vessels. And, it would help continue the Port's economic growth," said Thomas Kornegay, Executive Director of the Port of Houston Authority.
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More than an apple of discord

Canal Expansion BY NIDIA DIAZ: ON April 24, Martín Torrijos, president of Panama, announced the official proposal for the extension of the Canal, consisting of the construction of a third lock with a view to the so-called Panamax boats, superior in depth to the current Panamax, transiting that inter-ocean route. From that point and even long before, voices have been raised to renege on that decision, approval of which is to go before Parliament and a national referendum. Viability studies on the project were undertaken by the ACP (Panama Canal Authority) and its executive, while the president has made the green light conditional on – in the first place – the amplification being self-financing, meaning that the investment would have to be recouped from progressive increases in tolls and not via taxes on the population. In second place, he warned that the funding must be acquired by the ACP and not by the government, whose budget has to be allocated to the basic needs of Panamanians. And finally, a commitment not to create new reservoirs that would imply the uprooting of campesinos living in the area and far less new flooding that would destroy or damage the environment.
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Statesmen's Forum with Samuel Lewis Navarro, Vice President of Panama

Canal Expansion The Honorable Samuel Lewis Navarro, vice president and foreign affairs minister of Panama, will discuss the historical announcement of the expansion of the Panama Canal and its implications. He will address some of the key issues and concerns regarding this important project. If you would like to attend, please click on the link above for the formal invitation and send your RSVP by Wednesday, May 17. Date: May 19, 2006 Time: 9 - 10:30 a.m. Location: B1 Conference Center CSIS 1800 K Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1800 K Street, NW, Washington DC, 20006 | Tel: 202-887-0200 | Fax: 202-775-3199 http://www.csis.org/component/option,com_csis_events/task,view/id,978/
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Offensive to Enlarge Panama Canal Continues

Canal Expansion Panama, May 9 (Prensa Latina) Although the number of groups opposed to the enlargement of the Panama Canal continues to increase, influential sectors of society and the National Government itself have stepped up actions to defend the project, which will be voted in a referendum. First Vice President and Foreign Minister Samuel Lewis Navarro will take advantage of his European tour to promote the enlargement project in Austria and Germany. Besides, the Board of Directors of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP, in Spanish), headed by former Minister Ricaurte Vasquez, and a parliamentary commission presided over by ex Government and Justice Minister Hector Aleman are drawing up the strategies to promote the project. The idea of building a third set of locks to modernize the interoceanic enclave, at a cost of 5.25 billion dollars, is the focus of debates in the country, as part of a race to convince Panamanians to vote in favor of the project in a referendum that may be held this year. The project will soon be debated at the Cabinet Council, which will surely approve it, and will be discussed later at the National Assembly. If passed, as expected, it will go from Parliament to the Election Court, which will call a popular referendum in a 90-120-day period to decide on the future of the canal, which has linked the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans over the past 92 years.
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Panama Canal Transits Sold to the Highest Bidder

Canal Expansion Panama Canal Authority (ACP) Advisory to Shipping No. A-07-2006. To: All Steamship Agents, Owners, and Operators. Subject: Addition of a Transit Booking Slot through Auction Process. In recent years the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has implemented several changes to the Transit Reservation System in order to better serve the needs of our customers, such as vessel swaps, substitutions, change of transit date, and a recent increase in the number of available slots. However, customers with lower rankings have expressed concern regarding difficulties in acquiring booking slots, particularly in the 3 rd period, due to the “weighted ranking” system, which tends to favor customers with higher rankings, leaving them with no option but to wait their turn to transit on a first come-first served basis. In order to provide these customers with an alternative, effective April 1, 2006, and for a 60-day trial period, the ACP will offer an additional booking slot through an auction process, available only during the 3 rd period, and for any booking condition present at the time.
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Panama Canal expansion to create many jobs

Canal Expansion PANAMA CITY, May 2 (Xinhua) -- The Panama Canal expansion project could generate between 150,000 and 250,000 new jobs in the two decades to come, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) said on Tuesday. Panamanian President Martin Torrijos announced in late April a 5.25-billion-U.S. dollar plan for widening the canal by adding a third system of locks to handle larger ships. The construction work will generate between 35,000 and 40,000 jobs by itself, according to ACP studies, with 7,000 workers taking part in the most active period of construction work, which runs from 2009 to 2011. Rodolfo Sabonge, ACP head of planning and marketing, said the work would create between 10 percent and 15 percent more employment in the Panamanian economy. It was estimated that about 1.5 million Panamanians would have jobs in 2025 if the canal is not expanded, while between 1.65 and 1.75 million would be employed that same year if the canal work goes ahead. The greatest increase in employment in the medium and long term will depend on the growth of economic activity in Panama, boosted by services -- the sector of the economy that is most immediately affected by Canal traffic. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2006-05/03/content_4504870.htm
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Panama Canal: Overdue Expansion

Canal Expansion Shipping lines and several U.S. ports support plans to widen the strategic Panama Canal. Some say it may even be overdue thanks to the heavy increase in China-U.S. cargo traffic. Perhaps fitting, the Panama Canal may celebrate its 100th anniversary with a new look. If all goes according to plans, the 50-mile waterway will undergo a $5.2 billion construction that will add a new set of locks by 2014, 100 years after the canal opened up for traffic. Also fitting, some may argue, is that the new plans have been spearheaded by Panamanian president Martin Torrijos, whose father, Omar Torrijos, gained worldwide fame for negotiating the 1977 treaty that led the United States to hand over control of the canal in 1999. "We support an extension of the Panama Canal as it would mean a positive development for world trade," says Frederik Berling, a spokesman for Denmark-based AP Moller-Maersk Group, the world's top shipping firm and port operator and the largest user of the canal.
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Europe, Asia for Panama Resolution

Canal ExpansionPanama, May 2 (Prensa Latina) Panamanian Vice President and Foreign Minister Samuel Lewis will tour Europe and Asia as of May 10 to foster the project of modernization of the Panama Canal Zone, official sources reported Tuesday. Lewis, accompanied by the country's Canal Zone Authority manager Alberto Aleman, traveled to Atlanta last week to analyze the issue with ex-US President James Carter. Carter signed the Torrijos-Carter Treaties in 1977 that opened the way to the return of the Canal Zone to Panama, a historic project agreed on December 31, 1999. According to the Panamanian Foreign Ministry, Lewis is readying a tour of Europe, including Austria and Germany, and Asia. The United States is another of the topics included in the Canal Zone program.
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Excavation and Dredging Will Start in 2007

Canal Expansion If the project to expand the Panama Canal is approved by referendum later this year, excavation will begin early in 2007. According to the plan approved by the board of directors of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) the third set of locks has three components. The first is the construction of two sets of locks, one at each end of the canal. The second is the excavation of access channels to the new locks and the extension of the existing navegation channels. The third is the deepening of navigation channels in Gatun Lake, and the elevation of the lake to it's maximum level of operation. To build the access channels will require an excavation 11.2 kilometers long by 218 meters wide. And it's not just any ditch. The required excavation is more or less the same distance that there is between Panama and Arraiján. For example to connect the new locks on the Atlantic side to the existing access channel will require 3.2 kilometers of excavation. On the Pacific side two new access channels will be dug, one 6.2 kilometers long going around Miraflores lake, and another 1.8 kilometers long, a little further to the south.
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2 Panama ministers quit to promote canal expansion

Canal Expansion PANAMA CITY, April 28 (Reuters) - A reshuffle in Panama's cabinet on Friday has put in place new finance and justice ministers, with their predecessors stepping aside to promote the expansion of the Central American nation's famous canal. Panama president Martin Torrijos said the changes were "strategic movements" to help the country face the challenges of the estimated $5.25 billion canal expansion. Outgoing Finance and Economy minister Ricaurte Vasquez will be replaced by Carlos Vallarino, formerly Public Works minister. Outgoing Justice Minister Hector Aleman will be replaced by his deputy, Olga Golcher. Vasquez was responsible for the economic strategy during the first two years of the Torrijos government, drawing up fiscal reforms and an austerity plan. He oversaw a growth spurt last year that helped reassure foreign holders of Panama's foreign debt, who had worried about the country's ability to keep up bond payments.
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Super-sizing the canal

Canal Expansion By LUCY CONGER: The plan unveiled this week to expand the Panama Canal to accommodate super-size ships would increase the flow of goods to Houston and other ports along the Gulf Coast and East Coast, trade experts say. Panama's president, Martín Torrijos, introduced the $5.2 billion master plan for a third set of locks. They would be large enough to handle the giant ships increasingly used to move containers from China to the United States. The plan calls for the third set of locks to begin operating in 2015 — the year after the centennial year of the canal, which today operates at near-capacity — with locks large enough to handle "post-Panamax" ships, able to carry more than 9,000 standard-size cargo containers. "I have no doubt this will make Panama the most important logistics and transshipment hub of the Americas and transform the way goods are moved," the canal's chief executive, Alberto Alemán Zubieta, said this week during a conference call.
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ACP Getting a Head Start?

Canal ExpansionThe people who live close to the Gatún locks of the Panama Canal in Colon reported it months ago, but only now the Panama Canal Authority has confirmed that they are moving earth in the area. The dredging, said Luis Ferreira, representative of the ACP in Colon, is part of "a study" of the ACP in the Atlantic sector. Master Plan coordinator Francisco Miguez added that these are "soil tests" and that the ACP has not initiated any construction work for the third set of locks. (Editor's Comment: Last night on television a camera crew filmed earth moving equipment in the exact location where the new set of locks will be constructed. They had ACP officials denying that the work was related to the expansion project, but their denials looked foolish, and they had a "hand in the cookie jar" feel to them. The equipment was locked right next to an area where the United States started digging a third set of locks in 1939, and where the new set will be built. Dkw.)
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