New Panama Canal Administrator Takes Office

Credit: Panama Canal Authority

By The Maritime Executive 09-08-2019 08:14:07

Ricaurte Vásquez Morales, Ph.D., an economist with more than 30 years' experience in the public and private sector, was sworn-in as the new administrator of the Panama Canal on Friday.

He will serve a seven-year term at the helm of the waterway, and assumes the role shortly before the Canal celebrates its 20th year under Panamanian administration on December 31, 2019.

“Just a few months short of the 20th anniversary of the transfer of the Canal to the Panamanian people, we face a distinctly different reality today. Trade now travels along different routes,” said Vásquez. “This new global reality, in which the Canal operates, requires us to redefine and adapt our business. We must face this challenge with intelligence, courage and imagination.”

Vásquez succeeds Jorge L. Quijano, who completed his term as administrator on September 4 after seven years leading the Canal and more than 40 years at the waterway. 

Vásquez is the fourth Panamanian administrator of the Canal, following Quijano (2012-2019), Alberto Aleman Zubieta (1996-2012) and Gilberto Guardia (1990-96), who was the administrator of the Panama Canal Commission, the U.S. federal agency that operated the Canal until 1999.

About Dr. Ricaurte Vásquez Morales 

Vásquez has more than 30 years in financial and international capital market management, financial consulting and in the public sector. He served as Minister for Canal Affairs and Chairman of Panama Canal Board of Directors (2004-2006), deputy administrator (2000-2004) and finance director (1996-2000) for the waterway. He was responsible for the financial transition of the Panama Canal to Panamanian administration, in full compliance with the 1977 Torrijos-Carter Treaties, including the closure of operations of the Panama Canal Commission, the United States federal agency responsible for the administration and operation of the Canal until noon on December 31, 1999.

He also served in public administration as Minister of Planning and Economic Policy, Minister of Economy and Finance, and Chief Debt Negotiator for the Refinancing Program of the Republic of Panama.

In the private sector, he held several positions at General Electric between 2008 and 2015, including executive director, vice president, and CEO for Central America and the Caribbean.

Vásquez has a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Villanova University, in Villanova, Pennsylvania, a Master of Science in Operations Research and Statistics and a Ph.D. in Managerial Economics from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the U.S. and a Master's in Economics from North Carolina State University in the U.S. He was an Associate Professor of Economics at Florida State University - Panama Campus.

Toll Restructure

The Cabinet Council of the Government of the Panama officially approved the modification of the Panama Canal tolls structure last week. The approved modifications include changed tolls for Neopanamax dry bulk vessels carrying iron ore, Neopanamax dry bulk vessels transiting in ballast, the vehicle carrier/roro segment and for the liquid bulk segment (including oil and product tankers, chemical tankers, LPG and LNG vessels).
Specifically, the final toll structure modifications include the following:

•      Dry bulk segment: Matched tolls charged to Neopanamax vessels carrying iron ore with the tolls assessed for grains and “other dry bulk” cargoes. Includes a tariff increase for Neopanamax dry bulkers transiting in ballast.
•      Container ship segment: Two new categories incorporated to the Loyalty Program with the objective of incentivizing the deployment of increased cargo volumes and additional services through the waterway.
•      Containers on deck: New rate for vessels carrying containers on deck, which do not belong to the container shipping segment, allowing for differentiated charges for containers that are empty, dry or refrigerated.
•      Vehicle carrier and RoRo segment: Modified the tolls charged and revised the vessel capacity ranges in order to clearly differentiate the current fleet.
•      Tankers, chemical tankers, LPG and LNG vessels: Toll structures remain unchanged, but tolls adjustments were approved to more closely align with the value of the route.
•      Small vessels and local tourism: Revised upwards to consider the resources used in the transit.

Implementation date 

The approved toll adjustments will go into effect based on the following schedule:

January 1, 2020:
•              Modifications for minimum tolls applicable to small vessels.
•              Improvements to the Loyalty Program for container vessels.
•              Considerations to charge based on Timber Summer DWT or Summer Loaded DWT, whichever is higher, only for dry bulk vessels carrying timber deck cargo.

April 1, 2020:
•              Modifications for the liquid bulk segment.
•              Modifications for Neopanamax dry bulk vessels carrying iron ore and Neopanamax dry bulk vessels transiting in ballast.
•              Modifications for the vehicle carrier segment.
•              Differentiation of the TEU tariff applicable to non-container vessels carrying containers on deck.

May 1, 2020:
•              Modifications for the intra-maritime cluster – local tourism segment.