At its annual Spring Conference yesterday, the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) announced the selection of Panama President Martin Torrijos as the associationâ€™s â€œPort Person
of the Yearâ€ 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 Panamaâ€™s seaports.
â€œThe 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,â€ said AAPA President and CEO Kurt Nagle.
â€œThe history of Panama is intimately linked to the history of the oceans touching its coasts,â€ remarked AgustÃn DÃaz, managing director of the CuraÃ§ao Ports Authority and chairman of AAPAâ€™s Latin American Delegation
. â€œThe actions developed during President Torrijosâ€™ administration have deep significance for the Panamanians as well as for the international maritime industry.â€
To complement the Panama Canalâ€™s expansion, President Torrijos has proposed a new $600 million â€œmega-portâ€ 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 canalâ€™s current ship capacity.
Mr. DÃaz stated that President Torrijosâ€™ selection as AAPAâ€™s 2007 â€œPort Personâ€ will encourage other Western Hemisphere leaders to make significant decisions on transportation logistics so their countries can be more competitive.
Prior to becoming Panamaâ€™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 Panamaâ€™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 â€œPort Person of the Yearâ€ 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 â€œPort Personâ€ honor during the associationâ€™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.