PANAMA CITY, Panama, February 17, 2006 – The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) announced today that it participated in the first ever annual meeting of the Western Dredging Association’s (WEDA) Panama Chapter. The meeting, held in Panama at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort, began on February 14 and ends today. Bringing together the world’s top leaders in the dredging industry, the meeting provided an overview and history of dredging works at the Panama Canal, along with highlights of dredging projects currently underway. The event was sponsored by WEDA and Texas A&M University, and among those in attendance were members from the Central Dredging Association.

“It has been a very exciting time for the ACP to exchange ideas and experiences on dredging with the world’s top leaders in the field. Dredging is such an important part of the Canal’s operations and it is imperative that we remain current and aware of the latest technological advancements as demand for Canal services continues to grow and capacity needs to be increased,” said ACP Director of Engineering Agustin Arias.

Meeting attendees were invited to the christening of the ACP’s drill barge Barú that was entirely manufactured by Panamanians. At 51 meters long and 15 meters wide, the Barú is nearly the size of two basketball courts. Participating in the christening ceremony was ACP Administrator/CEO Alberto Alemán Zubieta.

Dredging (deepening and widening navigation channels and other areas by extracting mud, rock and sand) is fundamental to maintaining and improving the Panama Canal’s infrastructure. Members of the WEDA conference were given a tour of the Panama Canal and the opportunity to see ACP dredging equipment at work, such as the dipper dredge the Rialto M. Christensen. Current dredging projects that are part of the Canal’s Permanent Modernization Program include:

  • Widening and straightening the Gaillard Cut (the narrowest part of the Canal, stretching eight miles);
  • Deepening Gatun Lake (the principal water reservoir of the Canal) to minimize draft restrictions during prolonged drought periods caused by climatic phenomena like El Niño;
  • Deepening of the Atlantic and Pacific entrances of the Canal; and
  • Constructing an additional tie-up station in the Gaillard Cut to improve transit operations.

The ACP’s Permanent Modernization Program includes other projects aimed at increasing capacity and ensuring the waterway’s safety, reliability and efficiency, including: the rehabilitation and replacement of the locomotive tow tracks; the implementation and further upgrading of the Automatic Identification System (AIS), a sophisticated navigation system to better monitor ships and route traffic for safety and security purposes; and the addition of a new launch.

About the Panama Canal Authority
The Panama Canal Authority is the autonomous agency of the Government of Panama in charge of managing, operating and maintaining the Panama Canal. The operation of the Panama Canal Authority is based on its organic law and the regulations approved by its Board of Directors. For more information, please refer to the Panama Canal Authority’s Web site: www.pancanal.com.

The Authority’s responsibility to the Panamanian people is paramount. The Canal belongs to the people and benefits from the Canal should accrue to as many Panamanians as possible. The Authority will plan its future so that it will continually contribute to the economic development and welfare of the citizens of Panama.