~Public Relations Division, Office of Executive Administration~

PANAMA CANAL BOARD APPROVES

Go to the Small Vessel Tolls Changes

AGGRESSIVE MARKETING PLAN

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 31, 1998 - Board members of the Panama Canal Commission (PCC) and the Panama Canal Authority (PCA) met yesterday and today in Washington, D.C., approving, among other things, an aggressive three-year marketing plan.

The marketing plan, developed by the Canal's Marketing Division in collaboration with the renowned consulting firm Booz-Allen & Hamilton, contemplates systematic enhancement of relations between the Canal and its clients and users. The plan was presented by Marketing Manager Rodolfo Sabonge before the board's Transition Committee, co-chaired by board members Fernando Cardoze Fabrega and Vince Ryan.

Among other things, the proposed plan will study traffic demand and cargo projections, while developing the agency's internal capacity for obtaining precise data on Canal users and clients. "Through this effort, we will gain a better understanding of the needs of our users and will be able to provide services that are increasingly reliable, efficient and competitive," explained Canal Administrator Alberto Aleman Zubieta.

Aleman Zubieta also updated the PCC and PCA board members on the progress of the Gaillard Cut widening program, noting that more than 75 percent of the dry excavation phase had been completed. A total of 16 million metric tons of earth and rock has been removed, while the removal of submerged material is about 29 percent complete.

During his report to the board, Aleman Zubieta said that Canal traffic and tolls have exceeded projections by 4.1 percent so far this fiscal year. "However", he added, "we anticipate that the Panama Canal will also feel the negative effects of the Asian crisis on world commerce. The total impact depends, to a large extent, on the financial and monetary conditions in the region for the rest of the year."

The Audit Committee, headed by Emanuel Gonzalez-Revilla, heard, among other things, a presentation about measures being taken by the Canal organization to solve the so-called "year 2000 problem" for computer and information management systems.

During the meetings, Canal board members also approved a proposed minimum toll charge for small vessels. The proposal was modified, taking into consideration comments from users, clients and government institutions such as the Panama Institute of Tourism during a February 13 public hearing at the Miraflores Theater. The new rate will become effective June 1, following its publication in the U.S. Federal Register. Vessels of up to 50 feet in length will pay a minimum toll of $500, while those between 50 and 80 feet will pay $750, those between 80 and 100 feet will pay $1,000 and small vessels of more than 100 feet will pay a minimum toll of $1,500.

Aleman Zubieta also reported on recent presentations by Canal organization managers to PCA board members during three days of intensive work and dialogue at Coronado. The gathering was part of the transition support program.

The next meeting of the PCC board will be held May 18 in Miami.

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Updated: February 18, 1998