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Bob McMillanAn Opinion

By Bob McMillan
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Progress at the Panama Canal

In 2006, then Panama President Martin Torrijos, announced a plan to double the capacity of the Panama Canal.  Included in the plan were new sets of locks, dredging of the approach channels and deepening the passage between each set of locks.

So, far, the expansion effort is within budget and will be completed in 2014 – the 100th Anniversary of the Canal’s opening.  The expansion effort has been a massive undertaking.  With 15 percent of the world’s maritime fleet unable to use the Canal, because the ships are too large, the expansion project will have a major impact on trade across the world.

One direct impact is the current scramble for U.S. ports to be ready for significant increases in container trade.  For example, there is currently an effort to replace the Bayonne Bridge, because the current bridge is too low for the larger container ships to enter the New York – New Jersey port facilities.  If the bridge structure is not altered, the Port of New York – New Jersey certainly will lose jobs after the expansion of the Canal is completed.

Another area where there will be a major impact now and in the future is Panama.  At the heart of Panama’s economy and the impact of the Canal expansion on that economy is the positive image Panama has around the world and particularly in the United States.  Every where I go to speak about the history and future of the Canal, audiences applaud the Canal, and praise the beauty of Panama, as well.

As for the expansion, there is no doubt that the construction industry in Panama will benefit the most.  I see that benefit continuing to flow even after the enlargement effort is over.  The construction expertise brought about through the massive engineering effort will next flow to infrastructure projects.  Bridges, improved highway systems, expanded ports and even more condominiums and office buildings will be developed.  President Martinelli has already signaled signs of future construction.

Once the Canal expansion is completed, the larger vessels, particularly container ships, will energize the ports operating in Panama.  Colon, as a free port, could become a larger facility for the transshipment of goods throughout the Hemisphere.  In addition, the maintenance of a larger number of vessels will also be a boost for Panama.

So far, Panama has been on target with regard to the construction timetable and costs.  In the future, I see more global businesses being attracted to Panama, as well as an increase in tourism.  All of these, coupled with the increase in transits, will keep Panama’s economy stable and contribute to paying off the construction debt.

Panama has a bright future.  And if you would like to learn more about the expansion of the Panama Canal, go to

Robert McMillan Website: