AAPA Selects Panama's President as Port Person of the Year

Wednesday, March 21, 2007
At its annual Spring Conference yesterday, the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) announced the selection of Panama President Martin Torrijos as the association’s “Port Person of the Year” for his leadership in promoting maritime commerce. Specifically, President Torrijos is being honored for his efforts to spearhead the US$5.5 billion project to expand the 92-year-old Panama Canal, and to promote continued development of Panama’s seaports. “The Panama Canal expansion will have a profound effect on United States, Canadian, South American and Caribbean maritime businesses and will help facilitate the movement of the dramatic increases in global trade expected in the coming years,” said AAPA President and CEO Kurt Nagle.

“The history of Panama is intimately linked to the history of the oceans touching its coasts,” remarked Agustín Díaz, managing director of the Curaçao Ports Authority and chairman of AAPA’s Latin American Delegation. “The actions developed during President Torrijos’ administration have deep significance for the Panamanians as well as for the international maritime industry.” To complement the Panama Canal’s expansion, President Torrijos has proposed a new $600 million “mega-port” on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal. Construction of two new locks, beginning this year, will enable post-Panamax size ships (those wider than 106 feet), with maximum container capacities of 12,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units), to pass through the canal. That is about three times the canal’s current ship capacity.

Mr. Díaz stated that President Torrijos’ selection as AAPA’s 2007 “Port Person” will encourage other Western Hemisphere leaders to make significant decisions on transportation logistics so their countries can be more competitive. Prior to becoming Panama’s chief executive, President Torrijos received a bachelor of arts in economics and political science from Texas A&M University. He then went on to serve as Panama’s Vice Minister of Government for four consecutive years, which earned him recognition from the United Nations and the government of Spain. In 1999, he was elected leader of his political party (the largest in Panama), which led to his appointment as a candidate for the presidency of the Republic of Panama in 2004. Each year, AAPA presents its “Port Person of the Year” award to an individual who has made significant contributions to the port industry. Recent award recipients include: U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), 2006; U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, 2005; U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), 2004; Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-MN), 2003; U.S. Trade Rep. Robert B. Zoellick, 2002; U.S. Sen. John Breaux (D-LA), 2001; and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), 2000. AAPA has invited President Torrijos to accept the “Port Person” honor during the association’s 2007 Annual Convention in Norfolk, Va., which runs Sept. 30-Oct. 4. The convention is being hosted this year by the Virginia Ports Authority.

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