October 23, 2006
Panama votes "yes" on Canal expansion
Panamanians yesterday voted"yes" to Panama Canal expansion in a national referendum on the "third set of locks project." The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) presented its formal proposal to the Panamanian government in April. In the end, 78 percent voted for expansion, as of 9:30 p.m. EDT.
Expansion will build a new lane of traffic along the Panama Canal through the construction of a new set of locks, which will double capacity and allow more traffic and wider ships. The Panama Canal is nearing maximum capacity and needs to grow with demand. The result of comprehensive analyses and studies by the ACP, expansion is estimated to cost $5.25 billion and will be for 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 Vasquez Morales, chairman of the ACP's board of directors and concurrent 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," Vasquez concluded.
The ACP has successfully managed and operated the 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 Aleman Zubieta.
The project will not interfere with or disrupt current Canal traffic.
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 constructing dams, flooding or displacing communities along the Canal's Watershed.