Panama Authority hopes to finish the upgrade of the Panama Canal by the end of the next year despite all the difficulties in the process. Panama’s Foreign Minister Francisco, Alvarez De Soto was quoted saying that relevant parties to the project are making all that is possible to end the upgrade by the end of 2015. It will be difficult considering the reported delays. Expansion of the Panama Canal is important not only to Panama, but also to the whole shipping industry.
Mr. Alvarez De Soto had a meeting with the president of Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha, Mr. Kodo, about the future expansion of the waterway. It was announced recently that the new locks project contractor is Grupo Unidos por el Canal, S.A. (GUPC). The Panama Canal upgrade has to be finished by the end of 2015, GUPC and ACP will pay $200 million. This investment will help the work to resume. According to the new agreement, the final date for the 3rd set of locks is planned for the end of the next year. There are twelve lock gates which are expected to arrive from Italy by the end of this year.
In the meeting were discussed the tolls to those using the Panama Canal, the safety of the waterway and the environmental obstacles. Panama Canal will introduce a new toll system. Mr. Alvarez De Soto said that there will be regular discussions about the canal tolls. All using the waterway have the right to see stability of the fees. Discussions and meetings between the Panama Canal Authority and the canal users will continue in future. The Japanese shipping industry is hoping the cooperation with the canal authorities to be enhanced. Japanese maritime industry is one of the main canal users, there is why Alvarez De Soto is in Japan for a few days, he was invited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Japan).
A Panama foreign minister is in Japan for the first time since October 2012. Japan has many ships registered in Panama. In the middle of 2012 statistics shows that Japanese companies had 1,881 Panama-flagged ships, this number represents 66% of the country’s 2,851 fleet.