Panama president calls N.Y-N.J. port partner
Panama President Ricardo Martinelli thanked local New York-New Jersey government officials and businesses for their investment in the region's ports in advance of an expanded Panama Canal, saying his country was a “complementary partner” with the port.
During a late September reception in Elizabeth, N.J., Martinelli said he believed New Jersey-New York terminals would gain the most from the canal's new, larger set of locks because of the New York region's consumers and because “China will continue to be the driving engine for world trade. That trade, if it wants to come to the eastern part of the United States, has to come through the Panama Canal.”
The increased volume of trade cannot be handled by rail or truck though West Coast ports, he argued, and the all-water route will offer both environmental benefits and savings to steamship lines and consumers.
Martinelli said New York and New Jersey would benefit only if the Bayonne Bridge is replaced or raised to allow larger ships to pass beneath it.
“If you don’t build the bridge, then the other ones will have a greater advantage,” he said. Last month the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey authorized $1 billion for the Bayonne bridge fix.
At the reception, New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno promised, “We will have a bridge that will accommodate the Panamax ships, and we will have it on time, under budget, in the year 2014.”
That is the 100th anniversary of the opening of the original canal and also the last year of Martinelli’s term. He said he expects the canal to be completed before he leaves office.
Martinelli also made a pitch for increased investment in Panama, touting the country’s low tax rates, flexible laws, and that it is run by “entrepreneurs, people who are not regular politicians.” Martinelli is a supermarket executive.
He highlighted opportunities in the logistics and terminal business, noting that in addition to terminals operated by Evergreen, SSA, Hutchison Whampoa and PSA, that there are opportunities to build two or three other terminals in the country.