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PORT DEVELOPMENT


MIT now has 14 cranes


in 2011 and 5.5% in 2012 according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, which will make Panama the strongest performer in Central America and one of the strongest in the Latin American region. Economic growth enjoyed a healthy 7.5% in 2010 positioning Panama among the highest growth rates of Latin America, reaching a gross domestic product (GDP) of $20,862m. Production of goods and services in Panama saw an increase of 7.5% over the previous year. GDP at constant value of 1996 prices, according to the Comptroller-General’s Office estimates, registered $20,862.9m, showing an annual increase of $1,448.8m.


In 2010, Panama received an investment grade status from the three main rating agencies Fitch, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s. Although the upgrade was the result of past administrations’ tightened policies, it was a victory for Martinelli’s government and very welcome news, leading the country to attract $2.36bn in foreign direct investment in 2010, the equivalent of 8.8% of Panama’s $26.8bn economy and above the average $2bn per year since 2006. In addition to fiscal discipline and


major tax collection ‘[Panama’s] policy has also been to strengthen our domestic market and diversify our debt ratio between external and internal debt and that is something that the ratings agencies have viewed positively,’ said Panama’s Deputy Minister of Finance, Frank de Lima.


And the US Congress appears to be moving closer to ratification of a free- trade agreement (FTA) with Panama signed in mid-2007 and although barriers to the deal still remain – including difficult timing, owing to the US election in November 2012 – the US is likely to ratify the FTA within the forecast period. This mainly reflects Panama's stronger commitment to the exchange of tax information with other jurisdictions, following Panama's withdrawal of the OECD black list of non-cooperative countries.


With port activity on the rise, port operators had been in ‘expansion mood’. Balboa received an additional 450mtr of pier giving the terminal a total of 1,720mtr of quay and a total of 22 quay cranes that have transformed the Pacific terminal into the largest


craneage of the Americas, in addition to 56 RTGs. The container yard has grown to 45ha with the completion of Phase 4 of Balboa’s expansion that included reclaiming land on a large portion of the area called Diablo Heights under the concession contract signed in 1997. Cristobal’s ongoing expansion provided the Atlantic terminal with a total of 11 quay cranes, one Panamax mobile harbour crane, four additional RTGs, totalling 34 RTG cranes for container yard operations with additional yard space for the terminal current growth. A 360mtr pier, equipped with four new post-Panamax cranes, will start soft operations by middle of September 2011 and will be fully operational by end 2011.


Since its inauguration April 16, 1995 and through a number of expansion programmes, MIT (a successful joint venture between Seattle-based SSA Marine, the largest marine terminal operator in the US and largest privately- owned international port administrator, and a group of Panamanian investors) now has 14 cranes of which nine are post-Panamax cranes and three are


Cristobal and entrance to Gatun Locks 48 PANAMA MARITIME REVIEW 2011/12


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