PANAMA CITY, Panama, September 10, 2009 – Three weeks after issuing the notice to commence work for the new set of locks, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) is steps away from awarding another major expansion contract – the contract to dredge the Atlantic entrance. Today, the ACP received bids from global firms vying for the project and will now thoroughly review the submissions.

The Atlantic entrance dredging project represents an essential part of the Canal’s Expansion Program to ensure that larger, wider ships can reach the new locks. This includes lowering the Canal bottom to 15.5 meters below *mean low water, dredging approximately 14.8 million cubic meters and conducting the dry excavation of 800 thousand cubic meters. The area to be dredged on the Atlantic entrance extends approximately 13.8 kilometers, and the scope of work also includes widening the existing Atlantic entrance channel from 198 meters to a minimum of 225 meters and the north approach channel to a minimum of 218 meters.

“Receiving the bids today marks another key milestone for this important project,” said ACP Executive Vice President of Engineering and Program Management Jorge L. Quijano. “The Atlantic entrance dredging plays a critical role in the creation of the new lane, and we look forward to the next step in the process.”

On February 27, the ACP released its request for proposals (RFP) for the Atlantic entrance dredging. Subsequently, several bidders attended site visits and a pre-tender meeting held from April through July, which were hosted by the ACP and provided pertinent details on the project.

Continuing its rigorous contracting process, the ACP now will conduct a careful review of the bids. The ACP will award the contract in the coming weeks to the lowest bidder that complies with all the contract requirements.

The Atlantic entrance dredging is one of several key expansion projects that will help create an expanded Panama Canal. Other major projects include the design and construction of the new set of locks, the largest and most important; Pacific sea entrance dredging; and, four dry excavation projects that will ultimately form a new Pacific access channel to the new locks. So far, plans remain on-time and on-budget. The ACP expects the Expansion Program to be complete by 2014.

The ACP embarked on its historic expansion with a national referendum in 2006, when an overwhelming number of Panamanians voted in favor of expanding the waterway. This move will increase the value of the route and allow the Canal to remain competitive. Expansion will build a new lane of traffic along the Panama Canal through the construction of a new set of locks, which will double capacity and allow more traffic and longer, wider ships.

*Mean Low Water (MLW) is the average of the low tides, which are the reference levels for hydrographical information, survey works and data.

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