To stimulate increased collaboration and promote trade, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) extended its partnership with the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) for three more years. The ACP first signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the GPA in June 2003, establishing strong ties between the two entities and providing economic benefits to both regions.

Areas of cooperation between the ACP and the GPA include, among others, joint marketing efforts, exchange of data, market studies, expansion plans, training and technology.

In 2007, the Port of Savannah imported and exported more than 13,949,667 tons of cargo via the Panama Canal, underscoring the significance of this partnership and the role both entities play in global trade and commerce. Through the continued partnership, both the ACP and the GPA can benefit from ongoing growth in Panama Canal traffic.

“The Canal’s renewed alliance with the GPA is a strong indicator of our commitment to the maritime industry and our customers,” said ACP Administrator/CEO Alberto Alemán Zubieta. “Through information sharing and collaboration, we will continue to maximize our resources to remain on the pulse of maritime innovation and enhance our services. This partnership is an important link for future growth, opening doors for new business opportunities and providing sustainable economic solutions for Panama and Georgia.”

As the fourth largest and fastest growing port in the United States, Savannah has emerged as a premier East Coast transportation center. In fact, the Port of Savannah reported double-digit growth last year, with 42 percent of the net increase attributed to cargo transiting the Panama Canal.

“This renewed strategic alliance will allow GPA and the Panama Canal Authority to continue to improve services for our customers and generate new economic opportunities for Georgia and the Southeastern United States,” said GPA’s Executive Director Doug J. Marchand.

One example of the ACP/GPA partnership in action is the East Coast Maritime Conference. From June 3-5, 2008, delegates from around the world convened in Savannah for the fourth annual event hosted by the GPA. This year’s program featured the panel discussion “Two Canals: Which Way to the East Coast?” during which ACP Vice President of Market Research and Analysis Rodolfo Sabonge spoke about the long-term outlook of the Canal and the anticipated effects of the waterway’s expansion on U.S. trade.

The $5.25 billion Canal Expansion Program 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.

In preparation for the expanded Canal, the GPA will launch the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, designed to deepen the Savannah River from 42 to 48 feet, in 2009. With an estimated completion date of 2013, the widened shipping channel will be able to handle the larger vessels that will transit an expanded Panama Canal. It also will capture new trade opportunities from the growing “All-Water Route,” (the route from Asia to the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts via the Panama Canal).