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Posted by Maria Arias on April 7, 2017
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China state firms eye land around Panama Canal

Chinese state firms have expressed an interest to develop land around the Panama Canal, the chief executive of the vital trade thoroughfare said, underlining China’s outward push into infrastructure via railways and ports around the world.

The Panama Canal Authority will officially open a tender to develop about 1,200 hectares of land — roughly the size of 1,200 football fields — around the waterway by the end of this year into a logistics park, after completing a five-year-long decontamination of the area, Chief Executive Jorge Quijano said.

“We have been talking to people here in China,” Quijano told Reuters on Monday ahead of a meeting with the canal’s advisory board in Shanghai. China Communications Construction Corp, its subsidiary China Harbour Engineering Company and China Railway Group have shown interest in the project, he added.

This comes at a time when China is urging its companies to invest in infrastructure overseas as part of Beijing’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative to improve global trade links.

China’s state firms have in recent years already chalked up investments in key logistics nodes, including Piraeus in Greece and Bandar Malaysia, a major development project that is set to be the terminal for a proposed high-speed rail link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

China’s COSCO Shipping Corp, which owns stakes in ports around the world including Piraeus, has in the past approached the Panama Canal Authority about the latter’s plans for the land, Quijano said.

“There are opportunities there, definitely for some of these Chinese companies to participate as a concessionaire, not just as a contractor to build something, but they can actually bid for the concession and then build,” he said.

He did not say how much the authority expected to get by selling the concession to develop the land.

China Communications Construction, China Railway Group and COSCO did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Quijano estimated the land and terminal would help bring in an annual revenue of “between $100-$125 million” after the first five years of operation. Overall, the Panama Canal is expected to bring in $2.8 billion in revenue this year, he said.