PANAMA CITY, Panama, August 14, 2007 – A tremendous engineering achievement that has connected the maritime world for nearly a century, the Panama Canal is only improving with age.  Ninety-three years after its grand opening in 1914, the Panama Canal will mark its anniversary tomorrow by celebrating the successful start of its historic Expansion Program.

Nearly a year after Panamanians overwhelmingly approved a national referendum to expand the waterway, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has set the project in motion. It awarded the first expansion-related construction contract, the first of five dry excavation projects that will create the new Pacific Locks access channel. This new channel will link a new, third set of locks on the Pacific end of the Canal with the existing Gaillard Cut (the narrowest stretch in the Panama Canal).

Recently, the ACP assembled an experienced internal team to manage this historic undertaking, hired legal and financial advisors, and released other preliminary tenders. It has also presented the Canal’s Expansion Program to international financial institutions, as it begins to weigh financing alternatives for the project.

“On our anniversary, we celebrate the marvels of a 93-year-old Canal that has passed the test of time and has seen the passage of history, yet it’s in excellent working condition, even today. We continue to aggressively meet the growing demands of world trade providing our customers with efficient, reliable and safe service, which remains our top priority. Over the years, the Panama Canal has increased its efficiency, and we will continue to enhance the waterway to make it better than ever. From its original construction to the current Expansion Program, the Canal is a landmark achievement for the country of Panama and an immense benefit to the world,” said Administrator/CEO Alberto Alemán Zubieta.

Expansion will build a new lane of traffic along the Panama Canal through the construction of a new set of locks, doubling capacity and allowing more traffic and longer, wider ships. This project, which just received the 2008 Samoter award for “Best Construction Project in the World,” will be the largest undertaking at the Canal since its opening.

There were 14,194 total transits in fiscal year 2006. Since August 15, 1914, more than 922,000 vessels have transited the waterway.

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: http://www.pancanal.com/. For Panama Canal video, please visit www.thenewsmarket.com/panamacanal.