Rep. Stephens Travels to Panama for Tour and Briefings on Panama Canal Expansion

ATLANTA – State Representative Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) recently traveled to Panama with a delegation of state transportation leaders from eight Southern states affiliated with the Southern Legislative Conference for high level briefings on the Panama Canal expansion project. The delegation agenda was designed to emphasize the need for Southern ports to continue making enhancements to accommodate larger vessels that are expected to arrive after the expansion of the Panama Canal.

“The expansion of the Panama Canal will have a tremendous impact on the state of Georgia,” said Rep. Stephens. “We need to continue our efforts here in Georgia to prepare for the large vessels and cargo volume that will be coming in after the completion of the Panama Canal expansion.”

The delegation began their trip with a series of briefings and a tour of the Panama Canal Authority. The group received a detailed briefing on the expansion and the importance of the transfer of cargo between Asia and America. Officials from the Panama Canal Authority spoke to the delegation and elaborated on the role of the Canal’s expansion and its importance to global trade, as well as the global trend of using larger vessels. The group also visited the control tower where they were briefed on the operation of the tower and the current locks.

Additionally, the delegation met with officials at the U.S. Embassy in Panama for briefings on U.S. – Panama political, economic and social ties. The group visited the American Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Panama for discussions about the potential for expanding the economic and financial relationships between Panama and the Southern Legislative Conference states. The final item on the delegation’s agenda was a meeting with the Chairman of the Board of the Panama Canal Authority, Mr. Roberto Roy.

For over a decade, the Southern Legislative Conference has focused on the economic impact of Southern ports. The $5.25 billion expansion project has been publicized as one of the most transformative global transportation projects currently in progress. When the expansion is completed in 2014, the Panama Canal will enable for an even greater flow of trade between Asia and the Americas and significantly impact the volume of trade reaching Gulf and Atlantic Coast ports in the U.S. Georgia is expected to be impacted directly by the increase in cargo and vessel traffic after the Panama Canal expansion.

Representative Ron Stephens represents the citizens of District 164, which includes portions of Bryan, Chatham, and Liberty Counties. He was elected into the House of Representatives in 1996, and is currently the Chairman of the Economic Development & Tourism Committee. He also serves on the Appropriations, Rules, and Ways & Means committees.

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