Panama Canal terminal up for P3 tender

After drawing response from 13 port operators, the Panama Canal Authority awaits statements of qualification.

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) is tendering a public-private partnership (PPP; P3) concession for a proposed trans-shipment container terminal on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal.

The proposed Corozal Port Project terminal would be located on the east bank of the entrance waterway, according to an October request for expressions of interest (RFEI) that received 13 responses from global port operators.

The proposed partnership calls for a private developer to design, develop, finance, construct, operate and maintain the Corozal terminal under a 20-year contract that can be extended for up to an additional 20 years.

A request for qualifications (RFQ) was initiated in November, and after several amendments and delays, the due date for statements of qualifications has been set for February 29.  

Development is intended to be carried out in two phases, with the first calling for development of a berth with 1,350 linear metres of quays and a depth of 18 metres, capable of housing three Postpanamax ships simultaneously, as well as supporting infrastructure. The second phase calls for the addition of a second berth with 731 linear metres of quays, with capacity for two Postpanamax ships at a time, in addition to related facilities. Once completed, the terminal is required to have a throughput capacity of up to 5.3 million twenty foot equivalent units (TEUs) per year. 

The first phase of the project is meant to be completed within two years of award date and the second phase is to be completed no later than eight years after award. Partial dredging and underwater blasting operations required to pave the way for terminal establishment would be conducted by ACP. 

The winning bidder will be allowed to house the asset in a special purpose vehicle based in the local market, as long as the vehicle is exclusively dedicated to work on the terminal. Rules for consortia in the tender require at least one participant to be a terminal operator, holding no less than 75 percent of interests and voting rights in the consortium. No partner may hold less than 10 percent of the consortium. 

Prequalified companies invited to participate in the RFQ include: APM Terminals (Netherlands), China Shipping Ports Development and China Harbour Engineering (China), CMA-CGM Group (France), EUROGATE Container Terminal Wilhelmshaven (Germany), Evergreen International (Taiwan), Hyundai Engineering & Construction (Korea), Manzanillo operator Carrix (US), Panama Ports Company (China), Ports America (US), and Terminal Investment Limited (Netherlands).

Autonomous government agency ACP estimates the project will create up to 3,800 jobs once the second phase is initiated.   

A crack formation in one of the new locks threatened to delay the already long-awaited canal completion, but after quick repairs, the affected section was reported to have passed stress testing on Valentine's Day. Once completed, the expanded locks will be capable of transporting ships carrying between 5,000 and 13,000 TEUs.