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Panama Canal expansion plans remain unaffected by downturn

Panama Canal expansion plans remain unaffected by downturn

Singapore: The Panama Canal's $5.25bn expansion programme remains on-time and 0n-budget despite the economic slowdoen, Panama Canal Authority (ACP) representatives attending Sea Asia 2009 announced in Singapore last week.

"As with any business during this time of economic uncertainty, we are monitoring trends and adjusting where necessary to ensure that we are maximizing all of the Canal's resources," said ACP vp Rodolfo Sabonge. "The shipping industry, as a whole, has experienced tough times before. The same holds true for the Canal ?"  we have gone through World Wars, Asian flu, the Iraq war, and other economic and financial upheavals in the world, but we have and continue to weather all the challenges that come our way ?" our business is grounded in its solid fundamentals, strategic vision, planning and sound management. And at the end of the day, the Panama Canal still is the best value in shipping."

Sabonge confirmed that the ACP's project to expand the Canal continues to push ahead on-time and on-budget. He noted that March 2009 signaled another historic milestone when the ACP received bids from three world-renowned consortia vying to design and build the new locks. The bids are currently being evaluated and a decision will be made in the coming months.

Expansion will build a new lane of traffic along the Panama Canal through the construction of a new set of locks, which will double capacity and allow more traffic and longer, wider ships. The ACP projects that the expanded Canal, with an expected completion of 2014, will further propel growth along the "All-Water Route" ?" which extends from Asia to the US East and Gulf Coasts via the Panama Canal. Shorter-term forecasts also predict a positive turn.

"Recent traffic statistics show that transits through the Canal have remained fairly constant. Vehicle carriers represent the principal segment mostly affected by the credit crisis, but our projections are already indicating traffic increases for next year," Sabonge added. [28/04/09]