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Resounding 'yes' for Panama Canal expansion

Panama City: The population of Panama approved by 78% the $5.25bn Panama Canal expansion in a referendum yesterday. Voters across the country believed that Panama should move forward with the project, which will add a third lane and a set of wider locks that will allow the passage of post-Panamax vessels unable to transit the existing locks.

The project, expected to formally begin when the official results are proclaimed three days after the voting, will double canal capacity which is
presently running at 93%.

"We spent years studying, researching and preparing and we are
ready", said Panama Canal Authority (ACP) chairman of the board, Dr. Ricaurte Vasquez. "This project will be done efficiently and
transparently."

With this vote, the Canal will be able "to grow with demand, improve
service, spur economic growth in Panama and maintain the Canal's competitive advantage," Vásquez added.
 
"The results give a clear mandate to the country and the ACP," ACP Administrator Alberto Aléman told Seatrade. "Panama's geographic
location is its destiny - we aim to be at the centre of global trade and become a great maritime hub," he added.

President Martin Torrijos, son of late general Omar Torrijos who signed the Panama Canal Treaty in 1977 with US president Jimmy Carter that transferred the waterway to Panamanian administration in December 1999, in an address to the nation said "it is an historic decision and the most important one for that generation. The time has come to build the future."  [23/10/06]

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