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Panamanians Vote Si on Canal Expansion

Panamanians voted in favor of the proposed Panama Canal expansion on Sunday, October 22.

The voting began at 7 a.m., and by 9:30 p.m., 78 percent had voted in favor of the expansion.

The plan is to create an additional lane of traffic by building a new set of locks, which will double capacity and allow wider ships. The Panama Canal is nearing maximum capacity and needs to grow with demand. Comprehensive analyses and studies by the Panama Canal Authority (ACP), put cost of the expansion at an estimated at $5.25 billion. This will be paid by Canal customers through a system of graduated toll increases.

“Today, Panamanians made history. We are honored by their trust and humbled by the responsibility in front of us,” said Dr. Ricaurte Vásquez Morales, chairman of the ACP’s board of directors and minister for Canal affairs. “We spent years studying, researching and preparing and we are ready. This project will be done efficiently and transparently. With this vote, the Canal will be able to grow with demand, improve service, spur economic growth in Panama and maintain the Canal’s competitive advantage,” Vásquez said.

“We are proud and energized by the confidence in us that Panamanians showed today. The project will benefit the people of Panama, the shipping/maritime industry and world trade. Panama’s geographic location is its destiny – we aim to be at the center of global trade and become a great maritime hub,” said Alberto Alemán Zubieta, ACP administrator/ CEO. “Expansion will be a principles-driven project – we are committed to transparency, efficiency and environmental sustainability. This will guide our vision and direction,” he said.

The ACP will provide regular updates on expansion and the contracting process, and will continue its environmental conservation efforts along the Canal watershed to protect the water resource for the city of Panama and the Canal.

The ACP has managed and operated the 92-year-old Canal since the U.S. handover in 1999. Canal operations have broken several records and have set the bar high for efficiency, safety and reliability, while bringing more revenue to the country.

“We are up to the task to take on Canal expansion, to add more capacity and to ensure reliable service years to come,” said Zubieta.

The project will not interfere with or disrupt Canal traffic.

Environmentally sound water-saving basins will be built next to the new locks, reusing 60 percent of the water in each transit. This technology eliminates the need for dams, flooding or displacing communities along the Canal’s watershed.

An ACP news release stated that an expanded Canal will benefit the people of Panama and world trade. The expansion will help maximize Panama’s strategic geographic location by helping it become an international maritime hub at the center of global trade. Expansion will improve the flow of international commerce and facilitate the movement of goods through several important markets. It will increase capacity of a critical trade artery, allow the vital “all-water route” to continue to grow, create more efficient service at the Canal, tighten the global supply chain and help goods get to market faster, saving time and money for producers and consumers.

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) is the autonomous agency of the Government of Panama in charge of managing, operating and maintaining the Panama Canal. The operation of the ACP is based on its organic law and the regulations approved by its Board of Directors.

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