ACCEPTANCE SPEECH by Panama Canal Authority (ACP) Administrator/CEO Alberto Alemán Zubieta
Good evening. Thank you Mr. Secretary-General. Thank you Ambassador Arias for that warm introduction.
Secretary-General, IMO delegates, guests, ladies and gentlemen:
I feel extremely honored to be with all of you this evening.
First and foremost, I would like to thank God for allowing me to be here tonight to enjoy this important moment, and to be the first Panamanian to receive the prestigious IMO International Maritime Prize.
I accept this award on behalf of the over 9,000 employees of the Panama Canal Authority – their hard work, professionalism and commitment has enabled the Panama Canal to succeed in making the changes and adjustments necessary to provide a world class service to global commerce. Every day, I continue to be inspired by their work and contributions to our country and to the maritime industry.
I would like to also express my gratitude to the Government of the Republic of Panama for the nomination which recognized the exemplary work of our people at the Canal. Thank you as well to the members of the IMO Council for their acknowledgement of our work and service to the shipping and maritime industry.
I would like to thank my wife Ana Matilde and my children who have stood by me – their love and support have sustained me all these years.
Panama’s destiny is inextricably linked to the seas. Three million years ago, the isthmus of Panama emerged and divided the oceans and changed the patterns of sea currents, thus forever modifying the environment and allowing among other things, for Europe to be inhabited by men. The Panama territory served as a biological bridge between North and South America. And more than one hundred years ago, man started separating the earth to connect the two great oceans; it was a monumental effort in what is today the Panama Canal. And since its opening to the global commerce, it has changed the patterns of trade and has made the world closer and more accessible.
Since the Canal was transferred to Panama in December 31, 1999, many things have happened in the world and in the Canal. The world changed dramatically after the events of September 11, 2001, and China entered the World Trade Organization in 2002, and economic growth increased in a highly globalized world.
We are now going through one of the most profound economic crisis that the world has ever seen, but this is not any different from past experience, and I believe as mankind has done in the past, we would come out better and stronger.
In 2006, the Panamanian people made an historic decision and voted overwhelmingly in a national referendum for the expansion of the Panama Canal. With this mandate, we moved forward with the program to build a third set of locks that would allow larger vessels to transit this important waterway. In a few years, Panama will once more transform the patterns of world commerce when the news set of locks open in 2014.
And I am pleased to inform you that the work is proceeding on time and on budget.
We are aware of the Panama Canal’s role in world transportation, of its presence in the maritime industry, and of its responsibilities as a global corporate citizen, and this is the reason why the Panama Canal Authority has always designed its projects based on the concept of sustainability. Among the most important responsibilities of the ACP is managing and protecting the Canal watershed, this involves protecting large tracts of natural forest and water resources that are vital for the operation of the Canal and for supplying water to most of the people in the cities of Panama and Colon.
We continue to promote the “all water route” via the Panama Canal as the most efficient route not only in economic terms but in green terms. We are currently working on ways to certify to our clients the reduction of emissions for ships using the Canal route, and we are also studying ways that can further reduce our carbon footprint.
As we see developments on the environment and climate change, with the United Nations Climate Change Conference fast approaching, we are pleased to continue to work with IMO and industry partners in promoting the cause of our environment towards cleaner atmosphere and oceans.
We recognize the leadership of the IMO and the important work that is being done on behalf of this important industry. It is imperative that during these very interesting but difficult times, we all support and continue to uphold IMO values and standards in shipping as we build for the future of a better and stronger shipping industry.
Ladies and Gentlemen: this is a proud moment for my country and for me personally. I accept this award on behalf of all Panamanians, who continue to value and support our country’s important role as a key link in the great, vital chain of world commerce.
Once again, I thank the IMO Council for this award, I am indeed honored and feel a greater responsibility as I join the long list of people who have preceded me and have made a positive impact in the shipping and maritime world.
Once more my eternal gratitude, and thank you everyone, and have a good evening.