TBY talks to Jorge Barakat Pitty, Minister of Maritime Affairs of the Panama Maritime Authority (AMP), on facilitating maritime trade in the country, the importance of developing human resources, and its collaboration with the Port of Hamburg.

Jorge Barakat Pitty
A lawyer by profession, Jorge Barakat Pitty earned a degree in law and political science from the University of Panama. He then earned an MA in negotiation, mediation, and arbitration and took specialized higher studies (postgraduate education) on alternative methods for conflict resolution, both at the Latin-American University of Science and Technology. Currently, he is a professor at the Panama International Maritime University (UMIP) and a member of its Board of Directors. He is a founding member of the law firm Barakat-Pitty & Associates, which specializes in maritime, commercial, and civil law.

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 the 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 toward 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. This close cooperation with other organizations in the country has been a key enabling point for the development of the industry and the execution of common goals.

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. 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 dredging companies in this project. 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.

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.