Expansion gives impetus to Corozal

By Franklin Castrellón

The start of operations of the expanded Canal seems to have given the required impetus to the realization of the port of Corozal, the construction of which has been called for years by the maritime community under the leadership of the Panama Chamber of Shipping (CMP).

Last week, the newly installed president of the CMP, Rommel Troetsch, added his voice categorically to those of his predecessors, Juan Carlos Croston and Willys Delvalle, reiterating his support for this project. “Panama must expand its port capacity immediately, if it aspires to become a regional logistics hub,” said Troetsch in an interview with Fernando Correa on Next TV.

Port of Corozal.

Port of Corozal.

According to Troetsch, so that Panama can aspire to develop its logistics potential, it should increase its port capacity on the Pacific. He said it is symptomatic of the fact that four of the five largest shipping companies in the world have prequalified for the concession for the design, construction, development and operation of Corozal. “As things stand, any port on the Pacific coast of Panama would be a complete success,” he said.

With 6.8 million twenty-foot containers (TEUs) handled in 2015, Panama is still far from the world’s leading logistics centers located in Singapore (30 million teus), Dubai (about 16 million) and Rotterdam (more than 10 million teus). He explained that if it develops Corozal, Panama would easily add 1.5 million teus, which in turn would generate about 1,500 jobs.

The four port operators that pre-qualified for the development and operation of the port were PSA International Pte Corozal, Ltd., Singapore; Terminal Link, part of the CMA/CGM Group of France; Terminal Investments Ltd. (TIL), linked to the powerful Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) of Switzerland and APM Terminals (APMT) of Denmark, affiliated with the AP Moller Group, which operates the leading container shipping company in the world. Maersk Line.

Interest in Corozal, strategically located at the Pacific entrance to the Canal is not limited to companies that have pre-qualified. Others also submitted documents to bid on the project, including Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL, Japan: Manzanillo International Terminal-Panama, SA, an affiliate of the US Group Carrix and Terminal II PortsAmerica Holdings, Inc., of the US.

Troetsch ruled out the feasibility these days of an alternative port site in Palo Seco or Farfan for purely economic reasons. He said that to develop a port in that area, there would have to be a huge amount of filling for the construction of a pier to reach deep water. “The cost of an offshore port is much more expensive,” he added, noting that in Corozal investment would be much lower.

Coming agenda

According to the timetable envisaged by the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) to carry out the building of Corozal, declared by President Juan C. Varela as a State objective, the award must be made before year-end to initiate the work in early 2017.

Quite possibly, in coming days, the ACP – with the support of the Executive – will resubmit to the National Assembly the Bill to extend the Corozal concession holder the same tax benefits enjoyed by other operators of the transshipment ports. “This step is necessary,” a source of the local maritime community told The Bulletin, “that is needed for a ‘level playing field’ among the ports”.

The project has been conceived as a “green port”, implying that it will have anti-noise walls, a “living fence” (with trees and shrubs) and electric cranes to substantially reduce emissions. The project will be built in two phases: the first will give it a capacity of 3 million teus, and the second an additional two million.

In the construction of the first stage about 1,300 workers will take part and in the second, 800. And when operating, the first phase will need 2,600 workers, many of them skilled, and in the second 1,200 workers will be added. The impact on both employment and logistical capacity will be extraordinary.

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