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Wed 3 Oct 2007 05:26 PM

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Panama Canal expansion breaks ground

30,000 join Panamanian President and world leaders to witness history.

They came from every province of Panama and from across the globe to witness history: The beginning of the historic expansion of the Panama Canal. The crowd, totalling around 30,000 included world leaders in business and government. They joined employees of the Panamanian government and the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) in a ceremony and groundbreaking to celebrate the beginning of the first-ever expansion of the nearly century-old waterway.

Expansion will carve 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 event inaugurates the first construction project of expansion. The dry excavation project on Paraiso Hill begins the construction of the new Pacific locks access channel. The new Pacific locks access channel will ultimately connect the Gaillard Cut to the new Pacific locks.

"It's a historic day. Expansion will have a significant role in world trade and the maritime industry. This project brings a true sense of pride and a real sense of responsibility. We are ready to meet the demands ahead and, truly, the best is yet to come," said ACP chairman and Minister for Canal Affairs Dani Ariel Kuzniecky. "We are grateful for the tremendous support of this project and we are honoured by the presence of government officials from around the world, particularly former U.S. President Jimmy Carter," he added.

In a national referendum October 22, 2006, Panamanians voted to expand the Canal, a momentous step that may ultimately secure their future and expedite world trade. Expansion will double Canal capacity to more than 600 million Panama Canal tonnes, tighten the global supply chain and help goods reach their markets faster. After much analysis, studies and planning, expansion begins today.

"We have researched and planned this project for years and we have the approval of the Panamanian people. As we stand here today, our vision and perseverance have paid off. Now, it is time to execute. Now it is time to begin the expansion of the Panama Canal," said ACP CEO Alberto Alemán Zubieta.

"It is truly an honour to lead this great organisation. We all know about those who risked so much and tried so hard to build the Canal more than 100 years ago. As we dig, as we build, as we expand the Canal, we will be thinking of those pioneers while also looking to the future. A future that is bright for the Canal and world trade," added Zubieta.

Panama is investing heavily in becoming the transportation and logistics hub of the Americas, and the canal enhancement is crucial to achieving that goal.

The Panama Canal services more than 144 different transportation routes from every corner of the globe, connecting major trading arteries and providing safe, timesaving and secure passage for all vessels. The expanded Canal will serve as a critical link to world commerce.

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