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First Panama Canal Expansion Project Begins

by Leroy Baker,, New York

17 September 2007

An audience of 30,000, including world business and government leaders, assembled in Panama earlier this month to witness the historic first step towards the expansion of the Panama Canal - the first major improvement to the canal's capacity since its completion almost a century ago.

The expansion programme will add 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 contract for the first phase of the canal expansion was awarded to Panamanian firm Constructora Urbana S.A. (CUSA) in July.

The first construction project got underway in a ceremony on September 3; a dry excavation project on Paraiso Hill that begins the construction of the new Pacific Locks access channel. The new Pacific Locks access channel will ultimately connect the Gaillard Cut to the new Pacific Locks.

"It's a historic day. Expansion will have a significant role in world trade and the maritime industry. This project brings a true sense of pride and a real sense of responsibility. We are ready to meet the demands ahead and, truly, the best is yet to come," stated ACP Board of Directors Chairman and Minister for Canal Affairs, Dani Ariel Kuzniecky. "We are grateful for the tremendous support of this project and we are honored by the presence of government officials from around the world, particularly former US President Jimmy Carter."

In a national referendum on October 22, 2006, Panamanians voted to expand the Canal. Expansion will double Canal capacity to more than 600 million Panama Canal tons, tighten the global supply chain and help get goods to market faster.

"We have researched and planned this project for years; we have the approval of the Panamanian people. As we stand here today, our vision and perseverance have paid off. Now, it is time to execute. Now it is time to begin the expansion of the Panama Canal," announced ACP Administrator/CEO Alberto Aleman Zubieta.

"It is truly an honor to lead this great organization. We all know about those who risked so much and tried so hard to build the Canal more than 100 years ago. As we dig, as we build, as we expand the Canal, we will be thinking of those pioneers while also looking to the future. A future that is bright for the Canal and world trade. A future that is bright for Panama - a country that is becoming the transportation and logistics hub of the Americas," he added.

The Panama Canal services more than 144 different transportation routes from every corner of the globe, connecting major trading arteries.

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