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Old October 22nd, 2008, 12:20 AM   #41
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IDB loan for Panama Canal expansion

Written by Richard High - 09 Oct 2008

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has approved a US$ 400 million loan for the Panama Canal expansion, the largest infrastructure project underway in Latin America.

The loan is for Autoridad del Canal de Panamá (ACP), the autonomous government-owned entity that manages and operates the 77 km canal linking the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans.

ACP plans to raise about US$ 2.3 billion in loans to finance the expansion program, which has an estimated cost of US$ 5.25 billion. The remainder will be covered with cash flow generated by the operation of the canal, through which about 5% of the world's seaborne freight passes annually.

The Panama Canal, which has been in operation since 1914, is approaching its maximum capacity. The expansion program, scheduled to be completed by 2014, will ensure the long-term competitiveness of the canal, which plays a crucial role in global maritime transportation, serving trade among economies around the world.

The program has four main components:

* the construction of a third set of locks, including two lock complexes and water-saving basins at each end of the canal,
* the dredging of the canal entrances on the Atlantic and the Pacific,
* the deepening and widening of the existing navigation channels,
* the raising to the maximum operational level of the Gatun Lake, which provides fresh water for the waterway.

The Panama Canal's current lock chambers are sized for container ships with a maximum capacity of 4500 TEU (20-foot equivalent units). The new lock chambers, roughly the length of four football or soccer fields, will fit 12600 TEU container ships. These locks will also use less water, as large volumes will be recycled through the adjacent basins.

During the construction phase, which started in 2007, the expansion program is expected to create up to 7000 direct jobs and around 35000 indirect jobs.

Commenting on the loan agreement, IDB president Luis Alberto Moreno, said, "The IDB has been a steadfast partner for Panama for nearly 50 years. We are proud to assist in this key investment in the future of Panama's greatest national asset, especially when conditions in international financial markets are so uncertain."

The IDB has been an integral partner for Panama since before the country took over control of the canal in 1999. The IDB supported the Panamanian government in the evaluation of expansion alternatives and in the preparation of a sustainable development strategy for the canal watershed. It also helped finance studies to quantify the benefits of the expansion program.

From October's issue of International Construction.
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Old April 26th, 2009, 03:21 PM   #42
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Delete post.
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I honestly think all development projects must be sustainable and futureproof.

You support the good projects... and oppose the bad.

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Old May 2nd, 2009, 09:24 AM   #43
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Panama Canal temporarily reduces rates to counter economic slowdown
1 May 2009

PANAMA CITY (AP) - The Panama Canal Authority has announced a temporary reduction in the rates it charges ships moving through the waterway, in response to international economic problems.

Starting June 1 container ships carrying less than 30 percent of cargo capacity will pay the reduced rate normally offered to empty ships, equivalent to about $57.60 per container.

The discount is scheduled to run until Sept. 30.

That is lower than the new, $72 per container rate scheduled to go into effect Friday.

Canal authorities did not offer any estimates Thursday on how much the discount would cost in lost revenues.

The canal had planned a series of rate increases to finance the $5.25 billion expansion of the waterway to handle larger ships.
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Old May 3rd, 2009, 04:40 PM   #44
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Panama chooses new president amid canal expansion
3 May 2009

PANAMA CITY (AP) - A conservative supermarket magnate is favored to win presidential elections Sunday that will determine who oversees expansion of the Panama Canal, the nation's economic engine.

Ricardo Martinelli, 57, of the opposition Alliance for Change has a double-digit lead in the polls over former Housing Minister Balbina Herrera of Panama's governing coalition, which is led by the Democratic Revolutionary Party.

The winner, whose term ends in 2014, will have to guide Panama through the world economic crisis and the $5.25 billion expansion of the Panama Canal to increase its capacity and accommodate larger ships.

Both Martinelli and Herrera, 54, supported the project, but recent world economic woes have generated uncertainty over the project, which is receiving $2.3 billion in international financing.

The canal project, which was approved in a 2006 referendum, is expected to generate about 5,000 direct jobs in the small Central American nation between 2010 and 2011, when construction is at its peak, according to authorities.

The project would be "one of the points most closely attended to" by a Martinelli government, said Roberto Henriquez, vice president of Martinelli's political party.

Herrera has promised to "expand the canal satisfactorily in the programmed amount of time" and spread the capital's wealth to the rest of the country.

"My responsibility is to make the growth generated by the capital through the inter-oceanic canal reach the provinces and indigenous peoples," she said.

Panama's economy grew by an annual average of 8.7 percent over the past five years, and unemployment fell from 12 percent to 5.6 percent. The growth was fueled by foreign and state investment by the outgoing government of President Martin Torrijos. Growth this year is projected to be 3-4 percent.

In an April poll, about 50 percent of likely voters surveyed said they planned to vote for Martinelli, owner of Panama's largest supermarket chain, Super 99. Herrera earned 38 percent support.

The poll, conducted by Unimer Research International and published by Panama City's La Prensa newspaper, surveyed 1,600 Panamanians and had a sampling error margin of 2.5 percentage points. Earlier polls also suggested an advantage for Martinelli.

Also running is Guillermo Endara, a longshot candidate who served as president from 1989-1994.

Panamanians also are electing a vice president, members of Congress, mayors and other local officials. More than 2.2 million people are eligible to vote, and the country's Elections Tribunal said it expects turnout of more than 75 percent.
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Old May 8th, 2009, 12:29 PM   #45
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Panama canal sees contract by July
5 May 2009

PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - The Panama Canal Authority expects to award the biggest contract for its $5.25 billion expansion project in June or July, the head of the authority said Tuesday.

Experts are reviewing the technical aspects of the bids of three consortia received in April before the bid prices are formally unsealed, Authority President Alberto Aleman said at the Reuters Latin American Investment Summit.

"The bids are in a vault in a bank and we expect that some time in June or July when we are finished with all the technical analysis we will have a public opening of the bids," said Aleman.

"By the end of the year we should have around 96 percent of the contracts awarded and working. The expansion is proceeding very well, very much in the time that we intended."

Impreglio SpA, one of the companies participating in the tender, told investors last month it expected the contract to be awarded in May.

The Authority had previously delayed the reception of bids on the contract but Aleman insisted it would not affect plans to complete the expansion by 2014, the centenary of the waterway's opening in 1914.

The expansion project, which will allow much larger ships to transit the canal, is being funded by canal's cash flow and $2.3 billion in loans raised from multilateral lenders.

The canal expects shipping volumes to decline by 5 percent this year due to the global economic slowdown but an increase in transit fees imposed on May 1 should keep revenue flat at $2 billion compared with 2008, Aleman said.

In addition to Impreglio, other companies involved in bidding for the expansion contract include Spanish firms Sacyr Vallehermoso SA, Acciona SA, Germany's Hochtief AG and a US-Japanese group led by closely held Bechtel Corp.

FEES CUT

Canal officials are optimistic that economic stimulus packages unveiled by governments around the world will help global trade recover, but Aleman was cautious when asked how quickly shipping patterns would rebound.

The Authority last week reached out to the troubled container shipment sector, charging ships carrying cargoes of 30 percent or less than their rated capacity as if they were empty, and relaxing reservation system penalties.

"We understand if there is no market, nobody wants to be coming (through the canal) with a very low (used) capacity," said Aleman, adding the relaxed fees would be re-evaluated at the end of the canal's fiscal year in September.

Aleman said grain traffic is up this year, thanks to more shipments from the Mississippi basin to Asian markets. Auto carrier and container traffic has fallen, forcing shippers to consolidate routes.

Cruise ship traffic, which is a small percentage of canal revenue, is up slightly as cruise ships begin spending more time in Panama on a general trend of increased tourism.

"The canal is a very exciting place to come see," he said, noting one cruise line is using Panama as a seasonal home port. "I am sure that other companies will follow."
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Old May 31st, 2009, 07:07 AM   #46
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Panama Canal forecasts 5 pct drop in cargo this year as crisis slows global trade
20 May 2009

PANAMA CITY (AP) - The Panama Canal Authority expects 5 percent less cargo to pass through its locks in 2009 as the world economic crisis slows global trade.

A report from the Authority's office of research and analysis says that cargo shipments have already dipped 2.4 percent to 179.3 million tons since October 2008.

The slowdown comes just as the canal is undergoing a $5.3 billion expansion project, due for completion in 2014.

Wednesday's report says that recession in the U.S., the canal's top customer, is slashing transit, and will likely keep cargo shipments down through 2010.

The Authority says it expects transit to rebound in 2011 as the world economy recovers. Some 5 percent of global trade passes through the canal.
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Old June 14th, 2009, 06:25 PM   #47
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Panama says canal contract winner not chosen yet

PANAMA CITY, June 12 (Reuters) - Panama said on Friday it has not picked yet the winner of the largest contract in the Panama Canal's $5.25 billion expansion, playing down comments from a company claiming it was charging ahead in the tender.

Massimo Ponzellini, chairman of Impregilo SpA , said earlier on Friday that a consortium including the Italian company had obtained top marks in the technical appraisal of bids to expand the Panama Canal.

Ponzellini also said tenders from the three consortia bidding on the project would be opened June 29.

"The ACP categorically denies the statements by Ponzellini," the Panama Canal Authority, or ACP, said in a statement referring to both the choosing of a winner and a date for making the announcement.

Technical evaluations of three consortia's proposals to build locks and water-saving basins have not concluded, the ACP said. Bids for the project are locked in a Panama bank vault and will be opened in public when evaluations finish.

Impregilo has said the whole Panama expansion project is worth $3.7 billion and it has a potential 37 percent stake in any contract.

The ACP has $3.35 billion budgeted for the locks and water-saving basins. It has said the expansion project, due to conclude in 2014, is on time and on budget.
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Old July 3rd, 2009, 05:43 PM   #48
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Panama Canal board to open expansion bids July 8

PANAMA CITY, July 2 (Reuters) - The Panama Canal Authority said on Thursday it will open bids for the largest contract in the canal's $5.25 billion expansion on Wednesday, July 8.

The technical evaluations of the proposals by the three consortia seeking the lucrative contract will also be revealed on Wednesday. These will combined with the bids to calculate the "best value" proposal for the canal expansion.

A winner will not be immediately announced as the authority intends to vet the bids for several weeks after opening them.

The canal has $3.3 billion budgeted for the contract, which will include construction of new locks.

The three bidding groups include the CANAL consortium, led by Spanish companies Actividades de Construccion y Servicios SA and Acciona SA and Germany's Hochtief AG ; a Japanese-U.S. group led by privately held Bechtel; and a third made up of Spain's Sacyr Vallehermoso SA and Italy's Impreglio .
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Old July 9th, 2009, 12:04 PM   #49
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Bechtel financially fittest in Panama bid-analysts

MILAN/PANAMA CITY, July 7 (Reuters) - A team led by U.S. group Bechtel is financially best placed to win the race for an estimated $3.3 billion contract to expand the Panama Canal, analysts said.

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) overseeing the bidding will open price bids on Wednesday but may take several weeks before announcing a winner. This $3.3 billion contract is the largest chunk of a $5.25 billion project to expand the canal.

Bids were placed months before a presidential election brought into power millionaire supermarket magnate Ricardo Martinelli, bucking a trend of left-wing leadership victories in Latin America. The new president took office last Wednesday.

The other two bidders are a consortium including Spanish giants ACS, FCC and Acciona, and a smaller group led by Sacyr of Spain and Impregilo of Italy.

The closely watched decision was initially expected before Martinelli took office. There has been speculation that bids could exceed Panama's budget and that the project could incur cost overruns.

The expansion of the canal, the biggest contract in Latin America, is to be completed by 2014 which is the 100th anniverary of the first transit.

"Such a complex project must have very solid balance sheet guarantees. The Americans have these guarantees and their project is technically as good as the one of Sacyr-Impregilo," a Milan-based analyst said on condition of anonymity.

The analyst said if the project incurred cost overruns a contractor with high equity and low debt like Bechtel could get financing more easily than an indebted one, making sure that works continued even if problems arose.

Although Sacyr sold its road toll business in a cash deal worth about 2.9 billion euros ($4 billion) in May, the building-to-services firm will still close the year with debts of 11 billion euros.

A contract as big as the Canal project would be a welcome shot in the arm. Sacyr leads the consortium with a 49 percent stake and Impregilo has 48 percent.

NICE BOOST

Sacyr has an order and service portfolio of 35 billion euros and assuming it took 49 percent of the value of the contract, in line with its stake in the consortium, a bid priced in line with ACP's budget would boost its portfolio by slightly more than 3 percent.

Impregilo has an order book of 19 billion euros and on a similar basis the impact would be about 6 percent.

The Sacyr-Impregilo group is the only one to have a local partner, Cusa, on board. Having work force and equipment on hand makes it easier for authorisations and could be an edge for the group. Its experience in doing work requiring technology needed for the Canal expansion, such as the 800-metre-long Yacyreta dam between Argentina and Paraguay, is also seen as a plus.

The other consortium led by ACS comes to the bid in a stronger financial position than Sacyr-Impregilo, particularly after Acciona sold its stake in power generator Endesa to Italy's Enel for 11.1 billion euros.

Net debt at ACS, one of Spain's least indebted construction companies, fell 4 percent to about 8.9 billion euros at the end of March from end-December. An analyst in Spain said the impact on his target prices for ACS, which has experience in terms of hydraulic works, would be below 5 percent.

Privately owned Bechtel, which has teamed up with Japan's Taisei Corporation and Mitsubishi Corporation, had booked $35 billion in new work in 2008.

KEY FACTOR PRICE

Will Gabrielski, a U.S.-based engineering analyst at equity research firm Broadpoint AmTech, said price was a key factor.

"I think they're looking at it pretty closely on price," Gabrielski said.

A report in May by Spanish newspaper Cinco Dias said the bids would be considerably higher that the ACP hopes -- a scenario observers said could complicate awarding the contract.

Expansion-related work is under way and the ACP insists expansion is on time and on budget.

Panamanian engineer Jorge Sanchiz, who has experience in canal-related projects, said he expected considerable cost overruns in the final project, due to rising cement prices and other unforeseen costs.

Sanchiz wants the new Martinelli administration to intervene in favour of an independent review of the bidding process.

Martinelli's canal minister, Romulo Roux, was unavailable for comment. But Martinelli said a change in government would not affect normal operation at the canal, which is considered largely free of government interference.

($1=.7154 Euro)
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Old July 9th, 2009, 01:53 PM   #50
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the group led by Sacyr and Impeglio has already won the bid

edit: oh I see, the article is dated 7th July... the announcement was made yesterday
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Old July 9th, 2009, 02:17 PM   #51
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Sacyr Shrs Indicated To Open +8% After Panama Canal Contract
9 July 2009

MADRID (Dow Jones)--Shares of Sacyr Vallehermoso SA (SYV.MC) soared Thursday after a group led by the Spanish infrastructure company and Italy's Impregilo SpA (IPG.MI) Wednesday won a $3.12 billion contract to build new locks for the Panama Canal.

At 0754 GMT, the stock traded up EUR1.22, or 13%, at EUR10.90, after rising as much as 18% in the first trades of the day. The stock has a very limited free float, and traders said news of the contract was causing some short sellers to cover positions, which squeezed the stock price higher.

The group also includes the Netherlands' Jan de Nul NV and Panama's Constructora Urbana SA.

The new locks will double the canal's traffic capacity and allow wider and longer ships to move between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The contract is the most significant work on the canal expansion, which is estimated to be worth a total of $5.25 billion.

The consortium led by Sacyr and Impregilo beat a group led by Bechtel Group Inc., which offered to build the new set of locks for $4.19 billion, and another group, which included Actividades de Construccion y Servicios SA (ACS.MC), Acciona SA (ANA.MC), Fomento de Construcciones y Contratos SA (FCC.MC) and Germany's Hochtief AG (HOT.XE), and which planned to charge $5.98 billion.

Spanish brokerage Banesto Bolsa estimates the contract secures Sacyr's construction division revenue of EUR173 million a year for a five-year period, assuming a 40% stake for Sacyr. The amount is roughly equivalent to 3.1% of group sales, it added. Sacyr hasn't disclosed what stake of the consortium it has.

The Canal Authority will finance the expansion with $2.3 billion worth of loans from five international lenders - the European Investment Bank, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Andean Development Corp. and the World Bank's financial arm, the International Finance Corp.

The authority plans to finance the remainder of the project through canal-generated cash flow.
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Old July 16th, 2009, 06:15 AM   #52
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Largest part of Panama Canal expansion contract awarded to Spanish-led consortium
15 July 2009

PANAMA CITY (AP) - The Panama Canal Authority has awarded the largest contract in its canal expansion project to Grupos Unidos por el Canal, a consortium led by Spanish construction firm Sacyr-Vallehermoso SA.

The winning bid for the design and construction of the new lock system intended to widen the canal was $3.02 billion, well below the maximum allowable price of $3.48 billion.

The canal authority is spending $5.25 billion to widen the 50-mile (80-kilometer) canal by 2014. The canal opened in 1914 and is too narrow for today's larger freighters.

The announcement was made Wednesday. The consortium also includes Italy's Impregilo S.p.A., Belgian contractor Jan de Nul, and Panama's Constructora Urbana, S.A., among others.
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Old July 17th, 2009, 09:31 PM   #53
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Panama ambition kicking off at last
17 July 2009
Tradewinds

The deal is done - but will a $5.25bn expansion project see the world's most famous canal triumph over adversity?

The world's most important maritime-infrastructure project should finally begin its descent down the slipway with the awarding of a $3bn-plus building contract any day now.

Confirmation that an Italian/Spanish construction consortium can proceed with the expansion of the Panama Canal will bring relief to Beijing and Athens as much as it will to Panama City.

The canal, linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, handles 5% of world waterborne cargoes but cannot cope with the new generation of post-panamax vessels.

The widening programme would allow the mixture of canals and natural inland waterways to take ships of over 1,200 feet (365 metres) long.

Impregilo and Sacyr Vallehermoso have won the $3.1bn contract to construct the new locks that are needed for the grander $5.25bn scheme to widen the waterway.

New Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli needed the contracts in place as soon as possible if he is to stand a chance of meeting the symbolic deadline of 2014.

That is when this vital artery of global trade will celebrate its 100th anniversary, a major triumph of engineering but also - like the grandiose inland-waterway projects of Russia under Stalin - one tinged with sadness.

There was no Russian dictator forcing prisoners to build until they dropped but malaria cut through the workforce as they slashed their way through the jungles of Central America - 25,000 workers are estimated to have died on the Panama project over the course of 10 years. Some critics still question whether a new scheme is really worth it. Due to the credit crunch and recession, trade transiting the canal is expected to drop 5% this year and there are longer-term threats from the opening up of the Northwest Passage.

Global warming is causing the Arctic ice to melt and the current flurry of political - and military - activity in northern waters reflects expectations of new mineral exploitation and shipping routes.

A general estimate of the distance between Europe and Asia through the Panama Canal is 12,600 nautical miles. That could be reduced to less than 8,000 via the fabled Northwest Passage.

The Panamanians have not always shown themselves sensitive to the prevailing commercial environment, either. They raised transit fees on 1 May, believing this would safeguard their $2bn-worth of annual revenues despite the fall-off in traffic.

They have since had to make concessions to the hard-pressed container-shipping industry but this is a sensitive area given that the income provides a huge part of the country's wealth.

And the decision to reward Impregilo and Sacyr is a brave one, as it ditches the bid put forward by US engineering group Bechtel.

The US Senate is currently considering whether to proceed with a Free Trade Agreement with Panama. It has been held up due to political concerns in the US about the country's archaic labour laws and the territory allegedly being used for tax evasion.

Panama would like foreign investment from its wealthy near-neighbour, which originally built the canal and controlled it until the beginning of this decade.

And while US companies would like to be involved in the construction process, railways that send containers from coast to coast across the US will be one of the losers from the canal's expansion.

Another loser will be Nicaragua, which has long fantasised about building its own link between the Atlantic and Pacific. That was unlikely to happen, so the only question now is whether modern-day engineering can match that of earlier in the century when it comes to deadlines.

The original work was completed two years early, while the new scheme was approved in a Panamanian referendum of 2006. There have been endless delays since, leaving the Spanish and Italians in a race against time to complete a job that will influence the shape of world trade.
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Old September 22nd, 2009, 04:15 AM   #54
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Perdue set to visit Panama to discuss Panama Canal expansion
19 September 2009

ATLANTA (AP) - Gov. Sonny Perdue plans to lead a state delegation to Panama to discuss Panama Canal expansion and the proposed Savannah Harbor expansion project.

Senior leaders from the Georgia Port Authority and the Georgia Department of Economic Development will accompany Perdue on the Sept. 23-26 trip. The trip is set to include a meeting with the Panama Canal Authority and with Maersk, the Georgia Port Authority's biggest customer.

A new set of locks in the Panama Canal set to open in 2014 will double capacity and allow bigger ships to pass through.

The Georgia Port Authority is trying to get approval to deepen the Savannah River to handle the larger ships that will be going through the canal.
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Old November 22nd, 2009, 05:31 PM   #55
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Panama may build bridge or tunnel across Canal

PANAMA CITY, Nov. 18 (Xinhua) -- The Panamanian government is planning to build a bridge or a tunnel across the Panama Canal near the Atlantic coast, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) said on Wednesday.

The authorities will invite bidders for a contract in January. The winning company must analyze and present the feasibility of building a bridge over the Canal or a tunnel across the Canal.

Both alternatives will be studied independently, the ACP said.

"It is estimated that the presentation of the studies will last seven months," and a committee formed by engineers will be in charge of evaluating the proposals, and it is possible to hire external advisors to guarantee efficiency, the ACP said.

Panama began to modernize the Canal in 2007 and is scheduled to finish the work in 2014 at the latest, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Canal. The project will cost about 5.25 billion U.S. dollars.
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Old December 13th, 2009, 03:23 PM   #56
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more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panama_...ansion_project





The new possibilities with the new canal:

New Panamax
Plans to build bigger locks have led to the creation of "New Panamax", with maximum length overall of 1,200 ft (365.76 m), beam 160 ft (48.77 m) and draft in tropical freshwater 50 ft (15.24 m).[7] Naval architects and civil engineers are already taking into account these dimensions for container ships.[8] The world's largest cruise ship Oasis of the Seas has almost New Panamax dimensions with height difficult to pass under the Bridge of the Americas even at low tide.

However, even before the revised dimensions were announced, the Maersk E-class - like the Emma Maersk; as well as many large tankers - ULCCs; and some bulk carriers, VLOCs - will not be able to pass through even the new, much larger locks.

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Old December 16th, 2009, 10:57 AM   #57
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FEATURE-Houston eyes Asia trade as Panama Canal expands

LA PORTE, Texas, Dec 14 (Reuters) - Warehouses holding everything from beer kegs to frozen chickens crowd the roadside along Highway 146 south of Houston, and a ferocious building boom is adding acres more, thanks to an even bigger project 1,800 miles (2,900 km) away in Panama.

A $5.25 billion plan to triple the Panama Canal's capacity finishes in 2014, opening the way to Houston for mega-sized cargo vessels that can't squeeze through the canal's current locks and don't want to steam around South America.

The prospect of bigger ships, and more of them, could be a boon for the Port of Houston, which already handles more foreign tonnage than any other U.S. port.

With an eye toward feeding the U.S. consumer's insatiable demand for Asian-made goods, U.S. retailers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Home Depot have built millions of square feet (hundreds of thousands of square meters) of warehouse space around Houston ports.

"They're popping up every place," said Jimmy Jamison, director of operations at the Port of Houston Authority, referring to the warehouses. "If they wait until the Panama Canal expansion, that property won't be there."

Many such warehouses were built on "spec," or without a dedicated tenant, and many are vacant.

Port officials expect spare capacity to disappear once the Panama Canal opens two new sets of locks -- the first major expansion since the canal opened in 1914. The locks will give massive container cargo ships from giant Asian exporters like China an all-water route to Gulf Coast ports like Houston.

At present the biggest cargo ships from Asia must unload their goods onto trucks or rail cars on the U.S. West Coast, or travel via the Suez Canal to the East Coast.

After the expansion, shipping containers unloaded onto Houston's docks -- which now go mainly to other Texas cities like Dallas and San Antonio -- could end up in U.S. Midwestern cities like Chicago. Houston is the closest U.S. port to the Panama Canal.

The canal widening could spark a shift in global shipping patterns and could lessen the reliance on West Coast ports like Los Angeles and Long Beach, which have long dominated the U.S. market for unloading cargo containers.

'A GAME-CHANGER'

Other ports on the Gulf Coast and East Coast -- including New Orleans, New York, New Jersey, Georgia and South Carolina -- are weighing expansion plans to lure the super-sized ships.

"It's really a game-changer," said Chris Bonura, spokesman for the Port of New Orleans, referring to the canal expansion.

U.S. imports from East Asian nations like China and Japan are valued at about $410 billion a year, and about half of that is handled by ports in California, Oregon and Washington, according to the Greater Houston Partnership business group.

But about 70 percent of cargo unloaded on the West Coast is sent via trucks and railways to markets east of the Rocky Mountains. That creates an opening for ports like Houston to extend their reach into the Midwest.

"The expansion that is going on in Panama has got the Port of Houston written all over it," said Jeff Moseley, president of the group.

THE KING OF LOGISTICS

To the east of Houston lies Cedar Crossing Business Park in Baytown, the largest industrial park in Texas, which houses warehouses owned by Walmart, Home Depot and others.

Walmart's 4 million-square-foot (370,000-square-meter) facility at Cedar Crossing, opened in 2005, is one of the largest such facilities in the world. A Walmart spokesman declined to comment.

"We can all agree that they are kind of the king of logistics," Moseley said of Walmart, calling its decision to locate in Houston "a loud resounding validation of this strategic location."

Home Depot operates a 750,000 square-foot (70,000 square-meter) distribution center in Cedar Crossing, but most of the cargo housed there currently arrives via railroads from the West Coast, said Jeff Siewert, Home Depot's director of international logistics.

Home Depot, which imports goods from about 30 Asian countries including China, Vietnam and Thailand, would consider a water-borne route to Houston if its shippers offered one, Siewert said. "As we think about our opportunities to ship all-water into Houston, that has always been on our radar screen," Siewert said.

UP FOR GRABS

Some U.S. analysts have predicted that about 20 percent of cargo ships now serving West Coast ports could divert to Houston once the canal is widened to handle a huge new breed of container vessel known as post-Panamax ships.

"There is going to be some marketshare gain," said Paul Bingham, managing director at IHS Global Insight, an economic forecaster, who pegged the diversion rate at 5-10 percent.

About 14 percent of container traffic handled by the Port of Houston comes through the Panama Canal, a percentage that port officials say could grow to about 25 percent by 2020.

The port will spend about $1.2 billion to expand its Bayport Container Terminal to enable it to handle about 1.4 million containers per year. The port is buying giant cranes capable of unloading post-Panamax cargo ships, which can carry up to 12,600 containers, almost three times the current number.
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Old December 30th, 2009, 08:01 AM   #58
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Canal expansion sets off race among Gulf ports
Tue Dec 29, 2:47 pm ET
By ALAN SAYRE, AP Business Writer Alan Sayre

NEW ORLEANS – With the recession showing signs of ebbing, Gulf of Mexico ports hope hundreds of millions of dollars in expansion projects proposed before the downturn will help them capture more trade as the world economy recovers.

A $5.25 billion project to expand the Panama Canal will allow the largest container ships to cut through to the eastern side of North America — and perhaps cut into the dominance of West Coast ports handling freight from Asia.

Even though the downturn has clouded future trade patterns, port officials said now is the time to be getting ready. Expansions pegged to the Panama Canal project, which is due for completion in 2014, had largely been on the drawing board before the recession began.

"There are some ports throughout North America and that have said, 'Let's wait and see how long-term this economic environment is going to last,'" said Don Allee, chief executive of the Mississippi State Port Authority at Gulfport. "But if a port decides to wait, it could be a costly decision."

The Panama Canal project, approved by Panamanian voters in a 2006 referendum, involves construction of two larger locks expected to double the 50-mile canal's capacity within 20 years. The project includes $2.3 billion in institutional financing.

The waterway now moves about 5 percent of the world's cargo.

The largest container vessel that can now use the canal has a capacity of about 5,000 TEUs — or 20-foot-equivalent units, generally the standard container size that can be transferred easily from ship to rail or truck. The expanded canal will be able to handle giant ships that can carry more than 14,000 TEUs.

Since the 1950s, containers — basically enclosed trailers without wheels — have moved to dominate the shipping industry. Containers can be quickly transferred to rail cars or put on flatbed trucks.

The largest Gulf Coast container port is the Port of Houston, which, according to the American Association of Port Authorities, handled nearly 1.8 million TEUs in 2008. New Orleans was a distant second with 235,324, followed by Gulfport with 214,074.

Los Angeles handled 7.8 million TEUs last year, while Long Beach took in nearly another 6.4 million, much of both totals coming from Asia. Long Beach has run out of room for expansion and is concentrating on improving efficiency. During booming times, both ports have congestion problems with ships waiting at anchor for days before being unloaded.

Jimmy Lyons, head of the Alabama State Port Authority, which operates the Mobile port, believes the Gulf Coast will eventually be a lower-cost alternative to the West, despite the additional 4,500 miles ships from Asia have to travel to reach the Gulf of Mexico.

"Instead of bringing a container into Long Beach, and dragging it by rail all the way to Memphis, they'll be able to bring it into Mobile, then send it to Memphis," Lyons said.

Gulf Coast port expansion projects being developed and proposed total over $1 billion.

The Port of New Orleans is looking for private investors for a $237 million expansion of its container terminal. Tampa, which opened its container terminal a couple of years ago, is expanding berths and storage space and adding two cranes at a cost of $17 million. Mobile, which opened its second container terminal last year at a cost of $300 million, is working on a $75 million facility to transfer container cargo to five railroad outlets and a turning basin to handle larger ships. Gulfport is in line for $570 million in federal funds to elevate the port to 25 feet above sea level.

Tampa's new container terminal, which handled about 44,000 TEUs last year, hopes to attract freight that would otherwise have to be brought by rail from West Coast ports to Atlanta or St. Louis and put on trucks before coming to Florida, said Richard Wainio, the port's chief executive.

But a trade expert warns that predictions of more trade coming into Gulf Coast ports may come up short. Marc Levinson, an economist and author of "The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger," said there are numerous post-recession unknowns that could affect shipping.

For example, there is congestion in the U.S. freight system.

"Shippers are just not as confident that cargoes are going to arrive on time like they used to," he said. "That's one factor that's going to reduce the growth in international trade."

And the federal government is imposing new environmental standards — such as limits on diesel emissions — on U.S. ports.

Levinson said that after the recession ends, foreign companies could decide it's cheaper to build plants in the United States — rather than pay expected higher shipping costs with less delivery reliability.

Since the Gulf ports don't have channels deep enough to handle the largest container vessels, almost all plans call for the initial transfer of cargo into smaller ships. Such facilities already exist in the Caribbean. But the state of Louisiana is trying to attract enough private investors to build a $1 billion-plus transfer point off the mouth of the Mississippi River in the Gulf.

The project's legislative sponsor, state Sen. A.G. Crowe, said the largest ships would be able to transfer cargo to smaller ships for calls all along the Gulf Coast and up the Mississippi River.

Although port officials agree that the competition won't be a winner-take-all affair and likely result in more deliveries to regional markets from ships that call at several ports, the competition is steep.

"Could there be a case for overbuild of infrastructure? Absolutely," said Gary LaGrance, executive director of the Port of New Orleans. "When is the time to build? Absolutely now, even with a global downturn in the economy. When it gets good again, it's really going to get good."
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Old January 1st, 2010, 05:01 AM   #59
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Panama marks 10 years since canal handover, cites revenues of $4.75 billion in decade
30 December 2009

PANAMA CITY (AP) - Panama has made $4.75 billion from the Panama Canal since taking over operations a decade ago, more than twice what it received in the 85 years the United States operated the waterway, the operating authority said Wednesday.

Thursday marks the 10th anniversary of the handover of the canal by the U.S., which opened the waterway linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in 1914. It is now run by an autonomous government agency, the Panama Canal Authority.

"We have demonstrated to the world that we are not only able to operate the canal, but we can do it efficiently and with big benefits for the country," said the authority's head, Alberto Aleman Zubieta. "Today, we serve customers better."

The canal charges ships fees for using the waterway, and income from those fees grew from $201 million in 2000 to $780 million in 2009.

Panama received a total of $1.83 billion from the canal in the 85 years it was run by the U.S., according to the authority's report.

The canal authority is spending $5.25 billion to widen the 50-mile-long (80-kilometer) canal by 2014, because the waterway is too narrow for today's larger freighters.
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Old January 1st, 2010, 12:46 PM   #60
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Time and definition of new Panamax

Precisely when shall the expanded canal open for traffic?

What precisely are the sizes of the ships allowed?

Old Panama canal locks are 1050 feet long, 110 feet wide and 41,2 feet deep.

Safety margin is required in all directions. Panama canal normally requires 85 feet free length - allowing 965 foot long ships, 4 feet free width - allowing 106 feet free width, and 1,7 feet free depth - allowing 39,5 feet draught. There have been exceptions. The longest ship to pass was 973 feet long (77 feet free length), the widest to pass were 108 feet 4 inches wide (leaving 1 foot 8 inches free width).

The new lock sizes are supposed to be 1400 feet long, 180 feet wide, 60 feet deep. What shall the required clearances and allowed ship dimensions be?
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