Panama Canal expansion creates new regional opportunities

A ship arrives with new rolling gates for the Panama Canal’s third set of locks for the canal’s expansion project at Limon Bay, Gatun, Panama, Tuesday, June 10. 2014. According the Panama Canal Authority, the second group of four gates for the new locks has arrived from Italy. The construction of the third set of locks will allow the passage of Post-Panamax vessels or container ships much too big to fit through the Panama Canal’s old locks.
AP Photo/Tito Herrera

The Inter-American Committee on Ports (CIP) of the Organization of American States (OAS) wants Caribbean countries to take advantage of the commercial opportunities offered by the Panama Canal expansion.

In addressing the opening of the three-day, ninth meeting on June 18 Executive Secretary for Integral Development of the OAS, Sherry Tross, recalled that more than 80 percent of world trade is transported by sea, and noted that the redevelopment of the Panama Canal will increase traffic and maritime trade worldwide.

“This increased capacity not only implies savings for world trade, but has the potential to increase trade between Latin America and the world,” she said.

“The impending expansion of the Panama Canal presents both challenges and opportunities for the entire region,” she added. “This expansion has the potential to stimulate trade in the region and, as we know, has already spurred infrastructure development designed to increase port capacity for large vessels post-Panama.”

Tross also expressed concerns about the environmental impact that will create the increase in maritime trade and port areas.

“This has had the effect of spurring more cross-sector dialogue and collaboration among policy makers and the public and private sectors on issues ranging from environmental management to the port-city relationships, intermodal investments and traffic flows,” she said.

Additionally, the OAS official said the increase in maritime traffic requires OAS member-states to modernize their laws, guidelines and regulations for the implementation and enforcement of international safety standards, as well as the improvement of physical infrastructure and appropriate human resources training.

“Really, much of this amounts to a shift in which port activities are fundamentally integrated into economic and social development,” she added.

During the meeting, OAS member-states are expected to discuss the prospects for strengthening regional port dialogue in order to promote competitiveness in the sector with the imminent enlargement of the Panama Canal.

To this end, the OAS said CIP members will work in six areas: Logistics; Innovation and Competitiveness; Port Management and Sustainable Environmental Protection; Port Security and Safety; Public Policies, Legislation and Regulation; Tourism, Interior Ports and Waterways; Services to Ships and Navigation Control; and Corporate Social Responsibility and Women in Ports.

Employees walk on the site where a new set of locks are under construction on the Panama Canal expansion project in Cocoli near Panama City, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014.
AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco
AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco

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