The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) is planning to relaunch the concession process to build and operate a new container terminal at Corozal on the Pacific side of the canal in 2020.
Following a market study, the ACP is opting for a smaller scale project featuring one fewer berth in the first phase in an effort to reduce the risk to interested parties.
Bidders will be responsible for building and operating the two berth positions and the project will initially hold an annual capacity of 1.5-1.7m teu.
Last year, four terminal operators – PSA International, APM Terminals (APMT), Terminal Investment Limited (TIL) and Terminal Link – did not submit bids for the contract despite meeting the pre-qualifying requirements.
It was thought that some operators believed Panama’s Pacific coast already had sufficient capacity, particularly due to the expansion of the PSA Panama terminal to a capacity of 2m teu.
Speaking at TOC Americas, Jorge Quijano, the ACP’s CEO said that a third party commissioned by the canal authority concluded another study in July which indicated that additional transhipment capacity would be required in the Pacific in the coming years.
He stated: “We have talked to those that had some interest in Corozal before. We have continued to talked to some that didn’t have any interest but now have some interest in Corozal.
“We repackaged this – instead of this being a three ship berth we have brought it down to only two to start with.”
Rather than a 69 ha area as initially proposed, the new project will feature a 40 ha area in the first phase with a quayline of 700-800 m consisting of two neo-Panamax berths.
There will also be on-site access for a railroad to go directly to the Atlantic side to keep less containers on the road and more on the railroad.
Quijano added: “For future when capacity is needed we could be looking at phase two with an additional capacity – 2m teu capacity if we move Panama Canal facilities out of the Corozal area.”
The ACP will be communicating with the industry again in 2019 before proceeding with the process.