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AlemÃ¡n spoke as he accepted the Containerization and Intermodal Institute's annual Connie Award. AlemÃ¡n, a construction engineer who assumed the helm of the PCA in 1998, supervised the design and present $5.25bn expansion until his retirement in September.
He noted that the present expansion "will not be the last." As the project continues, the increasing size of new vessels will mandate yet another expansion. The existing project will allow the canal to handle ships up to 13,000 TEUs. More fuel-efficient ships and the increasing price of bunkers are bringing 18,000-TEU ships onto the seas "and we must have Panama Canal locks that can handle them. We must have one more expansion."
"There was global doubt about Panama's ability to run it," he said. "We had to change the culture of the way the industry looked at the canal." He also had a major role in persuading the people of Panama to approve the expansion project in a national referendum. Ultimately, he said, Panama approved the referendum by a vote of 80 percent to 20 percent against. "When the new locks open in 2015, it will be the beginning of a new era for Panama," he said.
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