PANAMA CITY – Chinese-Belgian consortium Cruceros del Pacifico has begun construction of a $165 million port for cruise ships on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal, the government said on Thursday.
“We will turn our country into a strong competitor in the cruise business and into a world tourism powerhouse,” President Juan Carlos Varela said in a statement, adding that officials hope to attract tourists currently sailing on Alaskan, Caribbean, Pacific Ocean and California itineraries.
The large port of Amador will be able to receive two ships simultaneously and handle up to 10,000 passengers, and the project will include green spaces, parking lots and cutting-edge technology for boarding travelers and moving luggage.
The port along Amador’s boulevard by the entrance to the interoceanic waterway used to move almost 6 percent of world trade should be completed in 24 months.
Cruceros del Pacifico is made up of China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) and Belgium-based Jan de Nul, the only bidder in the April 19 auction, the Panamanian Maritime Authority (AMP) said.
The new terminal will have two piers, allowing the simultaneous docking of two cruise ships with a capacity for 5,000 passengers each, AMP director Jorge Barakat said.
The complex “will have all the facilities and amenities required in a port of this type, turning Panama into an easy to reach destination and a home port on the Pacific coast, allowing thousands of passengers to take their favorite routes from Panama, which will yield a great benefit for the national economy,” Barakat said.
The Panama Canal Authority said 235 cruise ships will use the expanded interoceanic waterway during the 2017-2018 season, which started this month.
Between January-April, 125 cruise ships carrying 205,000 tourists arrived in Panama, a country deriving nearly 10 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) from tourism.