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of a national institution now, involved in every type of infrastructure development in port, roadways, housing and commercial development- and of course the canal, for which it has carried out many projects in the past. In the run- up to the $ 3.1 billion lock contract, CUSA has been involved already with three large projects as part of the ACP's Expansion Program. A $ 40 million road building and excavation contract is almost completed. Additionally, the company gained a subcontractor role in two Pacific Access Channel projects that were awarded to CILSA, a Mexican company belonging to Carlos Slim, and Constructora MECO of Costa Rica. " Besides that there is a dredging contract coming up in August this year that we are not involved in directly, but hope to be able to participate in with associated dry excavation work," says Fábrega. Grupo Unidos por el Canal's successful bid should make CUSA recession- proof over the coming five years ( completion is scheduled for 2014- the centenary of the canal's opening). At the same time there is plenty more infrastructure work to be done in the capital and in the rest of the country. " The majority of our work is road- related but we also do a lot of work for private clients," says Fábrega. " We have worked for the container shipping company, Evergreen Marine, on its port terminal, for the US Army Corps of Engineers when it had bases here, and we were involved in the construction of the new US Embassy compound as a subcontractor for infrastructure works to the main contractor, Caddell Construction of Montgomery, Alabama." CUSA has also been an integral part of the development of the multimodal system in Panama, having completed work for Manzanillo International Terminals on the Atlantic coast, one of the largest container terminals in Latin America, owned by Seattle- based Stevedoring Services of America, and also for Panama Ports Company at Port of Balboa on the Pacific side, which is owned by Hutchison Whampoa of Hong Kong. Kansas City Southern Railroad operates the link between these two terminals, and, of course, CUSA has worked for them, too. " We are also doing an oil pipeline project for Petroterminal de Panama S. A. in west Panama that involves major modifications to the existing facilities, plus the construction of two tank terminals at the Pacific and Atlantic ends of the Constructora Urbana, SA A t a rather splendid public ceremony on 8 July, the Panama Canal Authority ( ACP)- taking its cue perhaps from the Oscars- opened the tenders from three consortia prequalified to build the biggest chunk of its $ 5.2 billion expansion. This is a big deal for Panama and international trade, since the canal has been running close to capacity for some time now and needed to be able to handle bigger ships. The existing two sets of locks define the ' Panamax' standard limiting container vessels to 5,000 TEU ( twenty- foot equivalent unit); the two new locks will be able to handle 13,000 TEU ships. The contract for the third set of locks has now been awarded to the best value bid, in terms of price and technical ability, the winner being Grupo Unidos por el Canal, a consortium comprising Constructora Urbana of Panama ( CUSA), the Spanish hydroelectric specialist ( and consortium leader) Sacyr Vallehermoso SA, Italy's civil engineering group Impregilo SpA, and Jan de Nul NV, a dredging specialist based in Belgium. The announcement means a lot to Carlos Fábrega, confident though he was about the outcome. " We did what needed to be done. The bid was put together over two and a half years between Chicago, where the very experienced designer Montgomery Watson Harza is located, Buenos Aires, Madrid, Milan, Aalst in Belgium, Pasadena, California and Panama City itself among other cities. Crucially, ours was the only consortium to include a local partner." There won't be any time to relax, as work begins straight away. For CUSA this comes at a very opportune moment, says Fábrega. " Since the recession started last year we have kept busy by completing the backlog of government and private contracts that we had, but there is not much new work being started at present." Added to that is the effect of a new president having been sworn in days before the canal bids were opened. Though Ricardo Martinelli is a businessman well placed to boost Panama's growth- which is continuing at a respectable 2.5 percent- there's a traditional hiatus in government investment at times of changeover. CUSA was founded in 1955 by Rafael Alemán, and since his death in 1992, the company has been headed by his son Rogelio Alemán. It is something August 09 www. bus- ex. com 95