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The Panamanian maritime industry represents 20% of the Gross Domestic Product and is the fastest growing sector in the national economy.

Investment resulting from development and privatization of ports exceeds the sum of one billion dollars and continues with its expansion, privatization and concessions plans in the Panamanian port system in both oceans.

The Panama Maritime Authority, an autonomous entity of the Panamanian Government is responsible for approving, registering and authorizing regular and special flagging, either locally or by means of an authorized marine merchant consulate. It promotes domestic and foreign investment, and supports the development of Multimodal Logistics Center with the operation of the Panama-Colon railroad, providing greater operational efficiency to the Colon Free Zone.

During the last 10 years, the evolution of port activities has shown its highest level in growth and development in Panama. In 2010, the Panamanian port system moved 5,593,199 TEUs (container units of 20 feet in length), that is 31.8% compared to same period in 2009.

For the period January to December 2010, the movement of containers in Panama increased by 32.4% (units) and 31.8% (TEU's), compared with the same period in 2009. Similarly, containerized cargo (metric tons) increased by 30.9%. The increase in container throughput in units, we can observe in ports such as Manzanillo (12.0%), Panama Ports Co. Balboa (37.2%), Cristobal Panama Ports Co. (108.4%) and Bocas Fruit Co., Admiral (14.1% ). Of note is the significant increase Cristobal Panama Ports Co., due to the increase in container shipping 243.473 (in units) for the period January to December 2010, compared to 110.709 (in units) for the same period in 2009.

As the movement of containers in TEU's, the national port system for the period January to December 2010, registered an increase in all the private ports. The port that stands out is Panama Ports Co. Christopher, whose increase was 94.1%. This was because for the period 2010 recorded 375.570 (TEUs) for the same period in 2009, recorded 182.639 (TEUs) in shipments.

The Maritime authorities estimate that as of December 2010, the year concluded with a movement of more than 5.7 million TEUs. The investment of US$1,600 million in the port expansion has doubled the income in the auxiliary maritime industry, from US$74 million in 2002 to US$3,500 millions in 2010.

This expansion is projected with the privatization of the main port terminals as well as due to the construction of new terminals. Manzanillo International Terminal, Colón Container Terminal and Cristobal figure as the main ports in Latin America.

The Panama Port System is made up of 18 ports of which 11 are managed by the Panama Maritime Authority through the General Directorate of Ports and Auxiliary Maritime Industries, mainly small ports that provide international transportation service and off traffic. The remaining seven ports are managed and operated by private businesses that develop their activities under the supervision of this general directorate.

The port terminals of Balboa and Cristobal are under the administration of the Panama Ports Company, member of the group Hutchison Port Holding (HPH). Likewise, there have been built new ports that are under the operation and administration of the private company such as Evergreen in Colón Container Terminal Charco Azul, in Chiriquí and Chiriquí Grande, in Bocas del Toro; Manzanillo International Terminal (MIT), operated by Stevedoring Services of America (SSA).
Panama is on its way to becoming the container trans-shipping center of Latin America and the Caribbean. Law 57 known as the Merchant Marine Shipping Act which came into effect on January 8, 2009, brought several benefits to the administration of the Panamanian Merchant Marine Register. As of October 31, 2008 Panama flag registration topped the list with 8159 vessels.

Panama has 144 routes in world trade. Port operators pay to the National Government nine dollars for movement of each TEU.Firms in this sector are gathered in the Maritime Chamber of Panama that was established in 1979 and in its inception it was formed only by shipping agents, currently, this body is made up 87 companies, ranging from shipping lines, ports, cargo, fuel suppliers representatives and others.

Panama Canal Developments
Since its inauguration in 1914 up to September of 2010 more than one million high draft ships have transited the waterway. Also impressive is the enormous amount of cargo that has transited the Panama Canal during these 96 years, summing up all the transits, the latter results in 9,000 million large tons of cargo.

On 22 October 2006 the citizens of Panama voted to expand the Panama Canal to allow for more transits and bigger ships. The Panama Canal Authority has started to execute the project and is following a comprehensive plan that will take eight years to complete at a cost of $5.25 billion dollars. While this is a subject of tremendous importance to the Republic of Panama and its people, the international maritime industry will benefit directly from the expansion through lower shipping costs, and global consumers will eventually benefit from the greater capacity and efficiency of the Panama Canal. To April 2011 the project to expand the Panama Canal has advanced by some 20%, and contracts worth a total of more than $4 billion dollars have been awarded according to the Panama Canal Authority (ACP).

The modernization process involves the widening and deepening the access channel in the Pacific and Atlantic, the depth of 13 kilometers from the Gaillard Cut is considered the closer of this waterway. The construction of a new cause of access that will connect the new locks on the Pacific, with an approximate area of 6.1 kilometers, just another new access into the Atlantic.

The largest segment of this multi-billion dollar mega-project is the construction of two new locks, which will be located at the entrance to both Pacific and Atlantic, to allow passage of the giant ships PostPanamax.

The corporation responsible for building these locks is the U.S. for the Grupo Unidos por el Canal (GUPC), which is led by Spanish company Sacyr and is accompanied by Italy's Impregilo, Constructora Urbana Panama and Belgium's Jan de Nul.

This business group was awarded the work by 3 000 and $ 118 million due to the magnitude of the locks expects to hire around 7,000 people over the next three years. ACP estimates that when the expansion works are completed in 2014, after 7 years of continuous work, the new Panama Canal will double its transport capacity from 300 million tons to 600 million.

Ports and Railroad
The 57% of the ports that make up the National Port System are divided in foreign and coastal trade. In this category, there are classified fruit, sugar and fishing ports, and the petroleum terminals.

Panama’s ports system grew 30% in traffic of TEUs during the first half of 2010, according to a report filed by the Panama Maritime Authority. Most of the ports grew in cargo traffic. The analysts’ foresee that this year will be of  much economic growth, mainly due to the beginning of important investments, among which is the expansion of the Canal.

It is expected a strong impulse in the sale of melons, watermelons and pineapples, which should produce between 5 thousand and 6 thousand additional containers. The rest would belong to the roots and tuberculoses, squash, plantain and other cultures.

This season, the shipping companies that offer services in the country have guaranteed space for the agro exportations with destination to the United States and Europe. A review was made with Maersk Sealand, Evergreen, CMA, APL, Hapag-Lloyd, Crowley American, Compañía Sudamericana de Vapores and Seaboard Marine, regarding the availability of space and logistics planning, reason why there is expected no inconveniences for the Panamanian products to arrive this season to the main world markets.

All this activity will allow Panama to transship over 5.7 million containers per year around year 2011 and continue growing over the years making Panama the No.1 container transshipment center in Latin America.

The Panama Canal Railway was totally renewed. Today it transits parallel to the interoceanic way, following the route of the first transcontinental railway there was in the world and its main objective is to transport cargo in containers from the ocean ports of the Pacific and the Atlantic. The passenger trains work daily, offering an interesting passageway, in less than one hour, to admire the Canal, the tropical rainforest, the flora, fauna and geography in general. The wagons count with one air conditioner and roof-free platforms. Within the National Port System, the transportation of passengers through the railway increased in 27% and the cargo 20%.

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. The 47 miles railway which is operated by PCRC links the areas of Balboa and Colon, allowing a two-way traffic. Trains run continuously between the terminals of the Atlantic and Pacific. The system has a capacity of 10 trains in each direction every 24 hours. But it is also possible to increase to 32 trips per day. Plans include a maximum of 4 million TEUs per year, in terms of cargo transportation. Operated with type “Bulkhead” cars which are equipped with two sets of 6 cars each carrying an average of 75 containers. A 1.6% growth recorded the movement of containers by rail, compared figures for the period 2009-2010. Panamá Canal Railway Company in 2009, 9 million was allocated for maintenance and expansion projects. By 2011 it will invest $ 15 million for road expansion projects, expand terminals, improving signal systems, among others.

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.

Panama is the only place in the world where it is possible to move containers in a customs zone from the Atlantic to the Pacific in less than four hours. This is an extremely attractive feature for shipping companies and shippers, as it represents significant opportunities for expanding services, improving the use of their assets, increasing routes possibilities and re-positioning, further easing restrictions of the Panama Canal regarding draft and size of vessels. The main objective is to complement the services offered by the Panama Canal, and the movement of large volumes of cargo.

Investment Opportunities
The maritime development of Coco Solo Norte, a former navy base of the armed forces oft he United States in the province of Colón, is due to the fact that there is a complete infrastructure of transportation, interconnected through the ports, airports, railway and roads. Next to the Colon Free Zone, the greater commercial area of the western hemisphere, where there have been installed the main exporting and importing companies, as well as embarcaderos and ship builders.
The Panamanian ports represent a good option for investment due to its own and collateral advantages that characterize the same:

  • Storage and transhipping
  • Facilities to load and unload
  • Consolidation
  • Storage and distribution of loose cargo
  • Lease, repair and storage of containers
  • Insurances for the cargo
  • Cleaning and repair of containers
  • Port, financial and cruise ship management,
  • Management of container terminals and processing zones.
  • Credit notes, cargo expertise by way of drawn work

Rodman and Farfan have been identified as possible port and industrial development zones, as well as for the operations of cargo transfer. Rodman, the studies performed considered the possibility of building a petroleum refining plant and in Farfan a new container terminal.

Some of the multi-million dollar investment opportunities include:

  • 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.
  • Expenses related to the Panama Canal operation (employee benefits, insurance, provisions, equipment, material, construction, consulting etc), reached $589 million in 2010.
  • 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 2010 numbered 298,340 and 2,221,401 respectively.
  • Servicesto ships andaircraft, including fuel salesandtheprovisionamounted2010 to 200.8 millions.
  • The relocation of approximately 8 to 10 thousand persons, as a result of Canal expansion, requiring housing and infrastructure.
  • Cruise ship reception and tourism.
  • Others

For more details click here

In terms of related air transport opportunities, Tocumen International Airport already is 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.

Land of the Panama – Pacific area is ideal for mega projects. The isthmus has important objectives such as Mega ports at Palo Seco at the Pacific entrance to the Canal, the Panama-Pacific Special Economic Area located at the former Howard Air Force Base (USA) and the exploitation of new tourist destinations.

Howard Multimodal Project
Panama Pacifico, a mixed-use, business, residential and recreational center, will be created over 40 years by renowned developer London & Regional Panama in conjunction with the government of Panama. For those expanding business overseas, retiring in Latin America or simply visiting this beautiful locale, our sustainable, mixed-use business center and residential hub provides a balance of world-class amenities, infrastructure and services.

The project is divided into industrial and commercial sector, including international business park and corporate center, which will have more than 300,000 square meters of warehouses. Also includes an airport and the residential area, which is the heart of this development, which will include commercial, office and three hotels (one green, one executive and a luxury).

At the end of this year is estimated to be completed investment of the first $ 150 million, by 2015 the company will have invested $ 400 million, according to the schedule agreed with the Panamanian state. Currently 2,700 people work at Howard and by 2015 that figure will rise to 9,500.

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 and clients.

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
Located 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 States.

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 and intermodal 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.

A New Opportunity: Container Port in Rodman

PSA International Terminal
The Cabinet Council of Panama approved between 2007/2008 the contract that allows the construction and operation of a new container port and cargo from Singapore Port Authority (PSA) at the entrance by the inter-oceanic Canal Pacific.

PSA subleased, 30 acres at the port of Rodman in 2002 was granted concession to the consortium SA Maritime Industrial Park (PIMs). This is PSA's first investment in America and according to projections by the company will boost trade between Asia, Europe and America.
The contract between the state and PSA, with an initial investment of $100 million, includes development, construction, operation and management of a container terminal and bulk cargo on the perimeter of the former Rodman Naval Station. The investment will double the port capacity installed which would put the country at the forefront regionally. The terminal will have the ability to move about half a million containers.

Currently develop buildings that will be the second deepwater port facility in the Panamanian Pacific will add to the four major ports has Panama: Balboa, Manzanillo International Terminal, Colon Container Terminal and Cristobal.
The full Howard complex was awarded in May 2007 to London & Regional Properties, a consortium that will develop directly or issue long term concession to third parties for the development of this Port as well as other areas within Howard. The Business Panama Group will be working closely with this consortium in developing investment opportunities for Howard.

If you are interested in any of the opportunities listed below within the Howard project, the BusinessPanama has a team of top experts to help you with:

  • Center of repair and maintenance of airplanes and helicopters
  • Development of a container port complex in Farfan
  • Logistic center for manufacturing and distribution
  • Industrial parks and processing zones for export
  • Call centers
  • Development of residential areas
  • Establishment of educative and institutional centers
  • Recreational parks, sports, tourist and recreational facilities.

If you are a developer or promoter, the Business Panama Group team of realtors, lawyers and other professionals will provide you a variety of services from the purchase of the property to all phases of development including structuring, subdivision, financing, contractual, design, environmental, construction, permitting and more. After beginning a relationship, we will be glad to provide you access to our “List of Recommended Professionals” formed by first class architects, environmental consultants, builders and others.

For more information, please click here to contact us.


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