Panama Canal Administrator Briefs Asia

Wednesday, June 25, 2003
In a speech delivered to influential business leaders, the Administrator of the Panama Canal, Alberto Alemán Zubieta, briefed members of the American Institute for Shippers' Associations (AISA) on the state of the Panama Canal and the importance of Panama as a logistics and transportation center. Alemán highlighted the Canal's increasing importance to global trade - particularly cargo coming from Asia - and impressive record of creating operational efficiencies, executing the Canal's vast modernization program and improving Canal safety. Of late, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has shifted its model by operating the Canal as a business and has made tremendous progress in shortening transit time and reducing accidents. For example, Canal Waters Time (CWT), the time it takes vessels to transit the Canal, has dropped by several hours recently and the Canal set a safety record of 172 days without an accident. Alemán Zubieta also discussed in the June 23rd speech the Canal's modernization program that he has been spearheading. The program, which focuses on improving infrastructure to generate operational efficiencies, includes: The widening of the Gaillard Cut, from 152 meters to 192 meters; The additions and improvements to the locomotive and tug fleets; The replacement of the locomotive tow tracks; The conversion of locks machinery to a hydraulic system; The purchase of a new locks control system; and The purchase of a new 360 degree simulator. The modernization program provides many benefits to shippers, such as increased Canal capacity by 20 percent; improved navigational safety; improved reliability of physical plant and equipment; decreased frequency of required maintenance and reduced Canal Waters Time. Alemán Zubieta stressed that as Panama's role grows in importance to global trade, the Panama Canal's vision remains consistent: to be a world leader in services to the maritime industry; to be a cornerstone of global transportation system and to be a model of excellence, integrity and transparency.

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