Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela and Panama Canal Administrator and CEO Jorge L. Quijano recently gave speeches to a large crowd at the inauguration of the expanded Panama Canal. This is the first expansion of the waterway since its original construction.
“More than 100 years ago, the Panama Canal connected two oceans. Today, we connect the present and the future,” said Mr. Quijano speaking to the people of Panama. “It is an honor to announce that what we did it together: providing this great connection to the world. This is the beginning of a new era.”
“Canal users can be assured that we’ll continue to support the Panama Canal Authority and our port operators to provide them a world class service and strengthen our logistics system by creating the necessary incentives and conditions to give added value to our inter-oceanic route,” said Panamanian President Varela.
The inaugural transit began with the passage of Neopanamax vessel COSCO Shipping Panama, originally named Andronikos but renamed to pay respect to the country of Panama and the Canal, through the Agua Clara Locks on the Atlantic side of the country and concluded with its transit through the Cocoli Locks on the Pacific side.
“We are thrilled that we currently have 170 reservations for Neopanamax ships, commitments of two new liner services to the Expanded Canal, and a reservation for the first LNG vessel, which will transit in late July,” Mr. Quijano added. “Our customers care that their supply chain is reliable and that they have a diversity of shipping options. And the Canal has always been reliable; today, we offer the world new shipping options and trade routes.”
The Expansion Program is the Canal’s largest enhancement project. In 2006, more than 75 percent of Panamanians approved the project in a nation-wide referendum, and, in 2007, construction of the $5.25 billion project began. It included the construction of a new set of locks on the Atlantic and Pacific sides of the waterway and the excavation of more than 150 million cubic meters of material, creating a second lane of traffic and doubling the cargo capacity of the waterway.