While the bulk carrier Baroque has been trialling passage through the new locks, and the containership Cosco Shipping Panama is crossing the Atlantic Ocean for the first commercial transit – this morning the TV reported that the ships were passing the island of Montserrat in the Caribbean, celebrations in Panama were being prepared for the Canal expansion inauguration on Sunday 26th June.
Today the local papers published the list of confirmed guests attending the event; there will be 62 delegations from countries worldwide and over a dozen international organisation delegations at the inauguration of the $5.25bn boost to the waterway’s capacity.
Among heads of countries confirmed to visit Panama are Ms Tsai Ing-Wen (Taiwan), Ms Michelle Bachelet (Chile), Luis Guillermo Solís (Costa Rica), Juan Orlando Hernández (Honduras), Hashin Thaci (Kosovo), Horacio Cartes (Paraguay) and Daniel Medina (Dominican Republic).
The vice-presidents of Argentina and El Salvador as well as Juan Tomas, vice-president of the Sovereign Order of Malta in Central America will also attend the event.
Juan Carlos I of Spain will be representing his son Felipe VI, the current King of Spain.
Pope Francis will be represented by Cardinal Rubén Salazar Gómez, Archbishop of Bogotá, while Emperor Ahikito of Japan will be represented by Seishiro Eto, Ambassador in Special Mission and Member of the House of Representatives.
France’s President Francois Hollande is sending a special envoy Jean Pierre Bel.
Admiral Mohab Hussein Mamish, president of the Suez Canal Authority will attend to represent Abdelfattah Al-Sisis, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt.
The prime ministers of Barbados, Curacao, Jamaica and Portugal are also expected to attend.
From South Korea, Kang Hoin, Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. From The Netherlands, Lodewijk Asscher, the Minister of Social Affairs and Employment.
Representing the Russian Federation, the Minister of Transport Victor Oleskiy. From the Philippines, the Administrator of the Maritime Industry, Maximo Q Mejia Jr and from Israel Tzaji Hanegbi, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office in charge of National Security and Foreign Affairs is expected.
Among the international organisations there are confirmations from the UNDP, OAS, CAF, SICA, ILO, CEPAL, SEGIB, and Parlatino.
What a difference from 1914 when the canal was first opened, for that coincided with the declaration of what turned out to be World War I, and few international guests, the local diplomats and government officials accompanied the President of Panama and his cabinet of the time.
Just over 100 years later, Panama is preparing to receive and welcome international delegations, Canal users, politicians, business people, shipping chiefs and of course the Panamanians to a celebration of the new era of the Panama canal. This capacity-doubling project is once again changing the trading patterns in the world, and this weekend where to be but in Panama?
I shall be writing with news and fascinating facts and photos, so you can join us from afar.
The Canal web canalampliado.com offers videos, photos and facts and figures.
On this occasion, from a very rainy afternoon in Panama City we can only say “Wish you were here!”