After securing Australia’s Darwin Port, China Landbridge Group Co., Ltd. (Landbridge Group) acquired the Margarita Island Port, Panama’s largest seaport on 12 May 2016, with an aim to build a modernized deep water port with high efficiency to better serve the “One Belt, One Road” Initiative.
Located at the Panama Canal’s entrance to the Atlantic Ocean and opposite to the Hong Kong-owned Cristóbal Port, Margarita Island Port is an important stop en route to the Panama Canal. It is part of the Colón Free Trade Zone, the largest free trade zone in the western hemisphere and one of the world’s cargo distribution centers with sea- land-air-rail multimodal transport.
The Panama Canal is the world’s largest canal linking the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. The Panama Canal Expansion Project kicked off in 2007 and will be open to navigation by June 2016. The expanded Panama Canal will have more capacity, allowing bigger container ships to pass freely, significantly reducing transportation time, distances between ports, and lower transportation cost per container. It will promote the commodity trade between Latin American countries and Asian countries, increase the trade and transportation efficiency between China and East United States, and facilitate transnational trade.
Landbridge Group’s acquisition of the Margarita Island Port is part of the companies’ master plan to build a highly modernized and efficient deep water container port to meet the present and future operational demand of the Panama Canal. Four additional container-exclusive berths will be built with an estimated annual processing capacity of three million ISO containers. The construction of the port will be led by China Communications and Construction Company (CCCC). Landbridge Group also has a plan of building an integrated park by combining different transportation strengths of the port.
The acquisition marks Chinese company’s first large investment in Panama. The launch of the project will create thousands of job opportunities for the local population and therefore boost the economic development of the region.
The interconnection of Landbridge’s three ports on three continents forms an important “Maritime Silk Road” which serves the objective of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative, leaving more room for future development.