Thursday, August 12, 2010

Panama Canal and Gulf State Port Authority Sign Partnership

The Panama Canal Authority has signed a first-ever partnership agreement with a Gulf State port authority as part of an effort to attract transpacific cargo to an all-water Asia-to-Gulf/East Coast route through an expanded canal which is set for completion in 2014.

Panama Canal Authority (PCA) Administrator/CEO Alberto Alemán Zubieta and Mississippi State Port Authority at Gulfport (MSPA) Executive Director/CEO Donald Allee announced the partnership by signing a five-year memorandum of understanding that will allow for joint marketing ventures, information sharing and technological exchange.

“Today’s MOU signing represents a great opportunity for Panama and Mississippi to build upon our existing offerings and trade relationship through a mutually beneficial alliance,” said PCA's Alemán Zubieta. “One of the primary tenets of the ACP is to continually look for creative approaches to boost trade flows and provide safe, reliable and efficient service to the international maritime community. This agreement is one way that we can help achieve this goal.”

The MSPA is an Enterprise Agency of the State of Mississippi and is responsible for the daily operations of the Port of Gulfport. Part of the mission of both the ACP and the Port is to further increase capacity and foster business development. In 2009, Panama was Mississippi ’s third largest trading partner, in terms of exports, after Canada and Mexico.

“For four decades, the Mississippi State Port Authority has focused on growth prospects in the Western Hemisphere, but the expanded Panama Canal will afford the Port of Gulfport new opportunities to be more competitive in shipping between North America and both Asia and the West Coast of South America,” said MSPA's Allee. “This agreement between the MSPA and the ACP will provide a framework for our two entities to work together to pursue new business opportunities that will result from an expanded Panama Canal.”

The Panama Canal is currently undergoing a $5.25 billion expansion project, which will double the waterway’s capacity and build a new lane of traffic through the construction of a new set of locks. Scheduled for completion in 2014, the expansion will allow more ships and the passage of longer and wider vessels through the Canal.
The canal is one of the major threats to West Coast discretionary cargo – that cargo which does not stay in West Coast port areas and heads mainly via rail to the Midwest or Eastern United States. In the Southern California ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, nearly 50 percent of all cargo moving through the two ports each year is discretionary.