DATE: August 2, 2010

GOVERNOR BARBOUR ANNOUNCES FIRST-EVER PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT BETWEEN PANAMA CANAL AUTHORITY,
PORT OF GULFPORT

Strategic alliance aims to increase economic growth, spur international trade,
promote ‘All-Water Route’

PANAMA CITY, Panama – Governor Haley Barbour joined Panama Canal Authority Administrator and CEO Alberto Alemán Zubieta and Mississippi State Port Authority at Gulfport Executive Director and CEO Donald R. Allee to launch a strategic partnership today in Panama by signing a Memorandum of Understanding to increase economic growth, spur international trade and promote the “All-Water Route” (the route from Asia to the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts via the Panama Canal).

“Maritime commerce is vital to Mississippi’s economy, and the expansion of the Panama Canal provides the state with considerable opportunities for increased trade and worldwide shipping,” said Governor Barbour. “Through the partnership with the Panama Canal Authority, the Port of Gulfport will be able to offer even more businesses quick, affordable access to nearly three-quarters of American consumers. Our nation’s ports are over capacity, and the current restoration of the Port of Gulfport will accommodate increased container traffic that will be entering the U.S. as a result of the Panama Canal expansion.”

During an official ceremony, the Panama Canal Authority and the Mississippi State Port Authority affirmed their commitment to mutual growth and cooperation. Renewable after five years, the first-ever agreement will allow for joint marketing ventures, information sharing and technological exchange.

“Today’s MOU signing represents a great opportunity for Panama and Mississippi to build upon our existing offerings and trade relationship through a mutually beneficial alliance,” said Alemán Zubieta. “One of the primary tenets of the ACP is to continually look for creative approaches to boost trade flows and provide safe, reliable and efficient service to the international maritime community. This agreement is one way that we can help achieve this goal.”

Both the Panama Canal Authority and the Port are dedicated to further increasing capacity and fostering business development. In 2009, Panama was Mississippi’s third largest trading partner, in terms of exports, after Canada and Mexico.

“For four decades, the Mississippi State Port Authority has focused on growth prospects in the Western Hemisphere, but the expanded Panama Canal will afford the Port of Gulfport new opportunities to be more competitive in shipping between North America and both Asia and the West Coast of South America,” said Mr. Allee. “This agreement between the MSPA and the ACP will provide a framework for our two entities to work together to pursue new business opportunities that will result from an expanded Panama Canal.”

The Panama Canal is currently undergoing its historic $5.25 billion expansion project which will double the waterway’s capacity and build a new lane of traffic through the construction of a new set of locks. Scheduled for completion in 2014, the project will allow more ships and the passage of longer and wider vessels through the Canal.

Receiving $570 million in federal Community Development Block grants for restoration projects, the MSPA continues to refurbish the Port from Hurricane Katrina damage. Development plans include elevating the Port’s West Pier to 25 feet above sea level, returning to pre-Katrina storage capacities and preparing for increased operations once the Panama Canal expansion project is completed.

Barbour Press
Aug. 2, 2010