Panama, July 6 2001 – Following three Legislative Assembly debates, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) fiscal year 2002 budget was approved last week. The new budget contemplates 237.2 million net tons of cargo and 14,868 transits in fiscal year 2002, of which 13,143 will correspond to oceangoing vessels.

The budget, which will be effective from October 1, 2001 through September 30, 2002, also features a $148-million investment plan. Investment funds will be channeled primarily into extensive modernization, repair and replacement programs. Projects expected to benefit from the funds include the Gatun Lake and Culebra Cut deepening, as well as the Gaillard Cut widening. Additional projects include the tow track replacement program and the conversion of locks mechanisms to hydraulic systems, both of which are currently underway.

Panama Canal Administrator Alberto Aleman Zubieta also informed legislators of expected increases in oceangoing transits and cargo tonnage that should produce revenue gains from complementary Canal services such as tugboats, line-handling and reservations. Revenue from these navigation services, added to the sale of electricity, drinking water and other minor revenues, is estimated at $189.7 million for fiscal year 2002. Operating expenses, however, are expected to reach $519.4 million.