Canal expansion first step in Panama’s hub development plans

Last week, Ti’s Chief Executive, Professor John Manners-Bell, moderated a session at a conference in the City of London looking at the potential of Panama as a market for future investment. The conference was entitled, ‘Panama: The gateway to Latin America’ and organized by the Caribbean Council. The day included an address by The Rt Hon Sir Alan Duncan KCMG MP, Minister of State for Europe and the Americas, Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Hon Augusto Arosemena Moreno, Minister of Commerce and Industry, Panama.

In his introduction to the session entitled ‘Connectivity: Panama’s unique value for multimodal logistics and energy distribution’, Prof Manners-Bell talked about the potential for Panama to become a major regional hub following the successful expansion of the canal.

Manners-Bell highlighted the market’s unique position as a platform for trade and transport. Although the canal’s $5.4bn expansion had resulted in more than 2,000 additional vessels being able to pass through it, delivering considerable extra revenues for the Panamanian government, the key to success would be to ensure that shippers started to use the country as a hub for distribution purposes rather than solely a transit country.

He went on to say that for shippers to locate their hubs in the market, the government needed to lay the foundations for a modern, efficient and reliable logistics industry. For this to be achieved a focus on a range of inter-related networks was required. This not only includes the physical flow of goods, but also robust networks for finance, information and communications technology and people as well as energy.

The expanded canal is already transforming trade flows and supply chains in the region. It is being reported that traffic is now being diverted from US West Coast ports to those on the East Coast and even winning business from the Suez Canal.

In addition to the canal and its port infrastructure, Panama can also boast the most connected airport in Latin America, Tocumen, as well as an interoceanic railway. The government has also grasped the importance of the digital economy including efforts to create a Control Tower in conjunction with Georgia Tech University, which monitors the effectiveness of all these modes.

Manners-Bell also praised collaboration efforts by the Panamanian and UK governments, working together on education programmes which would help develop the new generation of multi-lingual workers – an essential attribute to compete in the global marketplace.

Source: Transport Intelligence, 18 October, 2017


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