WATERWORLD

Panama 2017 | TRANSPORT | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Jorge Barakat Pitty, Minister of Maritime Affairs, Panama Maritime Authority (AMP), on the state of global shipping, public/private collaboration, and objectives for 2017.

How has the expanded Panama Canal reshaped the international maritime and logistics landscape?

Panama has played a vital role in the logistics sector at the regional level and in this context the expansion of the Panama Canal was another boost to the many private investments in the maritime logistics and infrastructure industry in the country. It was truly a vital complement to the millions of dollars in investments from maritime operators as well as those companies operating within the sector. Subsequently, reports from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean have positioned Panama as the main logistics hub in the Americas. This was a result of the joint efforts from the many parties involved in that. We can proudly say Panama is the efficient merging of public investment and the belief of the private sector in the development of a common goal and idea: Panama becoming the main logistics hub in the entire region.

How do you encourage cooperation between private and public sectors to empower the performance of this strategic segment of the national economy?

The AMP facilitates maritime trade in the country. Our administration also works towards facilitating formalities for our users in other organizations; for example, the Maritime Chamber of Commerce closely works with the Migration Authority, the Customs Authority, the Ministry of Environment, and so on. We believe this close cooperation with other organizations in the country has been a key enabling point for the development for the development of the industry and for reaching common goals.

Panama will be the host country of the International Maritime Organization's (IMO) World Maritime Day, whose theme will be “Connecting Ships, Ports, and People.” What can Panama impart to the international community about operating in the maritime industry?

This achievement proves the relevance of Panama within the international maritime industry and of the efficient service the country provides to the industry. It was also a gesture of trust from our peers in the IMO. We must highlight that the subject chosen is a clear representation of the characteristic of the Panamanian maritime industry; we are a global logistics platform that integrates the industry and represents more than 300,000 marines. We are the country with the largest registry of international vessels. There was no better choice for a country to host such an important event. The date will also commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the international ship registry for Panama. We have been promoting global trade for 100 years and this is the message we want to send at the event. Our long-term contribution to global maritime trade has to do with enabling and supporting maritime operators in their efforts to enact the highest international safety standards for vessels; at the same time, we protect people working at sea through the application of global labor agreements.

What is the commitment of the ministry in the development of human resources to serve the local maritime industry?

We emphasize the importance of education and the need to promote studies in maritime and logistics sciences. For example, we traveled with President Juan Carlos Valera in his visit to Singapore to find out more on its activity with institutes of higher learning. We have begun to emulate that to address the need of human resources. We talk about international know-how transfer through partnerships. Our administration supports and promotes the development of human resources; it is important for young people in the country to see the many opportunities around these industries. The better qualified they are, the greater success they can achieve.

Can you share some details of the recently approved collaboration between AMP and the Port of Hamburg?

One of the top projects for President Varela this term is the development of a maritime port for cruises in the Pacific in the Amador area. In this context, we started joint work and efforts to lift a sheet with the support of the Presidency Project Unit. This will lead to an international tender process for the construction of that port. We have seen great interest from architects and dragging companies in this project. The tender will be decided in March 2017, and we foresee the finalization of this project within 18 months. A visit to the Port of Hamburg was envisaged within Panama's potential in the industry and the efficiency of the human resources of the public sector. The Port of Hamburg is one of the best examples in terms of port management and we signed a cooperation agreement with it to emulate its operations and facilitate the technical capabilities and regulations for the successful operation of this new maritime port in Amador. There will be no exclusivity whatsoever in terms of only a cruise operator monopolizing operations in this new facility. During another visit to Miami, cruise operators had advised that in order to avoid that monopoly, the state should manage operations in the port in an efficient way.

What are your main goals and ambitions for 2017?

The most important activity for this year will be the celebration of the World Maritime Day in October 2017. At the same time, we need to emphasize the message that Panama has proven its technical capability and strength as international service platform, especially in sectors such as maritime and logistics. We will also leverage resources from the maritime industry to have a positive and valuable impact on local communities that require the support of the state. This administration has managed to establish within all tender contracts a percentage that needs to be allocated to the development of social maritime projects in the local communities. It is extremely important for us to integrate economic development with the social and sustainable development of our people. This is one of our top priorities.