the discovery of the Pacific coast of Panama, visionaries dreamed of one day
creating a great passageway from the Atlantic to the Pacific, thus avoiding
the 12,000-mile journey around the tip of South America. That day finally came
in August of 1914, after decades of planning and excavation. Although only 40
miles from shoreline to shoreline, the ingenuity and tenacity of the canal's
creators are evident with each and every movement of this magnificent lake-and-lock-type
canal. It's bound to be a voyage you will never forget.
The Panama Canal extends approximately 80 km. (50 miles)
from Panama City on the Pacific Ocean to Colon on the Caribbean Sea. It is widely
considered to be one of the world's great engineering achievements. The United
States is the largest user of the Canal in terms of cargo tonnage, as either
port of origin or destination, although Asian countries are beginning to close
the gap. About 12% of U.S. sea-borne international trade, in terms of tonnage,
passes through the Canal annually. Ships bound for Japan from the East Coast
of the United States save about 3,000 miles by going through the Canal; ships
sailing from Ecuador to Europe save about 5,000 miles.
Around 13,000 ships transit the Canal each year, hauling
an estimated four- percent of the world's goods around the globe. About 70 percent
of all trade through the Canal are coming from or heading to the U.S. Traffic
is projected to increase two percent per year.
Fifty (50) million gallons of fresh water are needed to float
one ship through the Canal and all of it is supplied free of charge by forests
on the surrounding hillsides, which capture the abundant tropical rains and
feed the Canal with rivers.
The Panama Canal Authority has implemented a $1 billion improvement
program to maintain the Canal and keep it competitive. The program includes
the widening of the narrow Gaillard Cut allowing two-way traffic for even the
largest ships and increasing Canal capacity.
In 1903, the Republic of Panama and the United States signed
the original Panama Canal Treaty, which allowed the United States to build
and operate a canal connecting the Pacific Ocean with the Caribbean Sea through
the Isthmus of Panama. The Treaty granted the United States the use, occupation,
and control of a Canal Zone, approximately 10 miles wide, in which the United
States possessed full sovereign rights. In return, the United States guaranteed
the independence of Panama and paid the government of Panama $10 million,
as well as an annuity of $250,000, which each year increased at a rate far
beyond that of inflation.
On September 7, 1977, a new Panama Canal Treaty was signed
by President Torrijos of Panama and President Carter of the United States
that transferred full control of the Canal to Panama on December 31, 1999.
Under this Treaty, the Panama Canal Company, the Canal Zone, and its government
were disenfranchised on October 1, 1979, and replaced by the Panama Canal
Commission that operated the Canal during the 20-year transition period that
began with the Treaty. The Panama Canal Commission has now been replaced by
a new Panamanian entity, the Panama Canal Authority. The treaty guarantees
permanent neutrality of the Canal. Control over U.S. military facilities in
the former Panama Canal Zone has reverted to Panamanian authority. The U.S.
Southern Command and U.S. Army South troops moved out of Panama at the end
Panama Canal Developments
Canal itself is undergoing a modernization and maintenance program of up to
$1 billion, which includes finishing of the widening of Gaillard Cut as well
as improvement of the locomotives (mulas) used to guide the ships through
the locks, the docks, the tugs and all the machinery of the Canal operation.
In addition, the Panama Canal Authority has announced preparations for constructing
a third set of locks. A multi-phase program includes building additional water
reservoirs to increase water availability both for the Canal and the terminal
cities; dredging the entrances to the Canal to allow the entrance of larger
ships to the ports; similarly deepening Gaillard Cut and Gatun Lake; building
the new locks and constructing two bridges over the next ten years.
Ports and Railroad
Additionally, Panama's ports are expanding their container
transshipment capacity. Manzanillo International Terminal completed a $100
million expansion program, the port of Balboa is finishing a $130 million
expansion program, and will, next year, start another $130 million phase three
program. The Evergreen port at Colon will enter a second phase of expansion
and a new port at Farfan, on the Pacific side, will be defined.
All this activity will allow Panama to transship over 2
million containers per year around year 2004 and continue growing over the
years making Panama the No.1 container transshipment center in Latin America.
Together with the ports, the restored railroad by Kansas
City Southern Railways already operational connect the ports creating a land
bridge to complement the Canal.
This port and railroad activity will require additional
services from the local economy such as financing, insurance, specialized
maintenance and repair, electricity and water, telecommunications, trained
manpower and other services, and it will create new business opportunities
for logistics and cargo industries.
Some of the multi-million dollar investment opportunities
The development of major intermodal transportation
and logistics centers at Colon and at the Howard/Farfan complex on the Pacific,
including the construction of a new container port at Farfan.
Ship owners services, servicing of vessels, ship repair
and maintenance, container repair, intermodal cargo services.
The future construction of the third set of locks, which
will include the necessity for additional water resources, expanded hydroelectric
power generation, the expansion of the entrances to the Canal and the deepening
of Gatun Lake and Culebra Cut.
Contracts related to the Panama Canal operation (provisions,
equipment, material, construction, consulting etc.) that reached $135 million
in 2001, not including purchases of $22 million.
Provision of concessionary services to the ports (power,
water, fuel, material, food, banking services, telecommunications, maintenance
and repair, dredging) estimated at between $47 and $60 million annually).
Services to passengers and crewmembers transiting the
Canal, which in 2000 numbered 255,571 and 458,134 respectively.
Services to smaller ships, such as yachts and motor
cruisers, which totaled 1,748 in 2001.
The relocation of approximately 8 to 10 thousand persons,
as a result of Canal expansion, requiring housing and infrastructure.
Cruise ship reception and tourism.
In terms of related air transport opportunities, Tocumen
International Airport should be developed as an international and regional
hub for both passenger traffic and cargo; the former Howard airforce base
should become an aviation industrial center, making use of its modern airport
facilities; and construction of the cargo airport at France Field in the Atlantic
must be completed.
Howard/Farfan Multimodal Project
The studies made for the development of this sector clearly
indicate that their location at the entrance and west shore of the Panama
Canal is ideal for the establishment of a multimodal center for industry and
the commerce. The existing airport infrastructure, and advance telecommunications
facilities and the integration of the just in time manufacture with the multimodal
transport will provide fast and flexible connections between users, suppliers
These areas and facilities that reverted to Panama at
the end of 1999 have a total area of 2,628 hectares, and are one of the most
important sites based on the opportunities for the development in the shores
of the Canal in the Pacific.
A New Opportunity: Container Port in Farfan
at the Panama Canal’s entrance, near to the bridge of the Americas,
the 253 hectares of Farfan are part of the former air base of Howard, the
biggest military airport that the EE.UU Armed Forces had outside of the United
The Japanese government through its Agency for the Development
(JICA), prepared a feasibility study that reveals that after occurring the
maximum development of the Balboa port and after its modernization, Farfan
can become the second great port of containers in the Pacific.
This port will be part of the multimodal center of transport
that Panama promotes. With a view to integrate itself more indeed to the system
of international transport its proximity to the port of Balboa and the airport
of Howard makes this site especially attractive for the predicted development.
Business Opportunities of the Howard Project
Center of repair and maintenance of airplanes
Development of a harbor complex in Farfan
Logistic center of manufacturing and distribution
Industrial parks and processing zones for export
Development of residential areas
Establishment of educative and institutional centers
Recreational parks, of sports and tourist and recreational
Howard/Farfan has an estimated value of US$1 billion that
will require participation from major developers or consortiums.
The Panama Canal plays a significant role in the country's
economy and has contributed an average of six percent of Panama's GDP since
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