SUNTEC CITY, Singapore, April 23, 2009 – Thousands of maritime and trade industry professionals joined Panama Canal Authority (ACP) representatives in Singapore this week for Sea Asia 2009 – the world’s largest shipping conference. During Thursday’s session, “The Charterer’s Forum,” Vice President of Research and Market Analysis Rodolfo Sabonge briefed attendees on a range of issues from traffic projections to the economic slowdown and the Canal’s $5.25 billion Expansion Program.

“As with any business during this time of economic uncertainty, we are monitoring trends and adjusting where necessary to ensure that we are maximizing all of the Canal’s resources,” said Mr. Sabonge. “The shipping industry, as a whole, has experienced tough times before. The same holds true for the Canal –  we have gone through World Wars, Asian flu, the Iraq war, and other economic and financial upheavals in the world, but we have and continue to weather all the challenges that come our way – our business is grounded in its solid fundamentals, strategic vision, planning and sound management. And at the end of the day, the Panama Canal still is the best value in shipping.”

Mr. Sabonge also confirmed that the ACP remains focused on the expansion project, which continues to push ahead on-time and on-budget. He noted that March 2009 signaled another historic milestone when the ACP received bids from three world-renowned consortia vying to design and build the new locks. The bids are currently being evaluated and a decision will be made in the coming months.

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. The ACP projects that the expanded Canal, with an expected completion of 2014, will further propel growth along the “All-Water Route” – which extends from Asia to the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts via the Panama Canal. Shorter-term forecasts also predict a positive turn.

“Recent traffic statistics show that transits through the Canal have remained fairly constant. Vehicle carriers represent the principal segment mostly affected by the credit crisis, but our projections are already indicating traffic increases for next year,” Mr. Sabonge added.

Following his presentation, Mr. Sabonge, along with other distinguished forum panelists, addressed audience questions.

Held April 21-23 in Suntec, Singapore, this is the second Sea Asia conference. Organized by Seatrade and the Singapore Maritime Foundation, the conference was initially launched in 2007.

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 ACP is governed by 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/