CDP - Canal De Panama

Panama is rapidly changing economically, socially and culturally, thanks to sovereign control over the Panama Canal handed back by America on December 31, 1999.

"Canal De Panama" (CDP) is the entity of the Government of Panama established under Title XIV of the National Constitution with exclusive charge of the operation, administration, management, preservation, maintenance, and modernization of the Canal, as well as its activities and related services, pursuant to legal and constitutional regulations in force, so that the Canal may operate in a safe, continuous, efficient, and profitable manner.

Organic Law of June 11, 1997, furnishes the CDP with legislation for its organization and operation. Because of its importance and uniqueness, the CDP is financially autonomous, has its own patrimony, and the right to administer it.

An Administrator and a Deputy Administrator head the CDP under the supervision of an 11-member Board of Directors. The Administrator is the highest-ranking executive officer and legal representative of the Authority, and is responsible for its administration and the implementation of the policies and decisions of the Board of Directors. The Administrator is appointed for a seven-year term, and may be re-elected for an additional term.

The appointment of the 11 members of the Board of Directors is made as follows:

  • Nine directors are appointed by the President of the Republic of Panama with the consent of the Cabinet Council and ratification by an absolute majority of the members of the Legislative Assembly.
  • One director is designated by the Legislative Branch, and may be freely appointed or removed thereby.
  • The President of the Republic designates one director, who shall chair the Board of Directors and have the rank of Minister of State for Canal Affairs. The Canal Affairs Minister attends Cabinet Council meetings, having the right to voice and vote.

The members of the first Board of Directors were appointed for overlapping terms to ensure their independence from the country's administrations. The Panama Canal constitutes an inalienable patrimony of the Republic of Panama; therefore, it may not be sold, assigned, mortgaged, or otherwise encumbered or transferred. The legal framework of the Panama Canal Authority has the fundamental objective of preserving the conditions for the Canal to always remain an enterprise for the peaceful and uninterrupted service of the maritime community, international trade, and the Republic of Panama.

CDP: Striving for a New World Quality Standard

The Human Resources Department, the Marine Operations Department, the Industrial Shipyard, Electrical and Aqueduct Divisions, the Safety Division, and the Contracting Division have all been certified ISO 9001:2000.  CDP’s Environment Division was also certified ISO 14001.

In 2003, more than 5,000 CDP employees upgraded from ISO 9001:1994 to the new ISO 9001:2000 world quality standard. The Human Resources Department began the process to obtain ISO 9001:2000 certification in 2007 and achieved it in August 2008. 
ISO 9000 standards are implemented by more than 610,000 organizations in 160 countries. These standards help to enrich quality management at organizations, including enhancing customer satisfaction and continually improving performance. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO), a non-governmental organization, is the “world’s largest developer of standards” (

The CDP sought the certification because of its firm commitment to innovative management. Receiving it confirms that the CDP is implementing robust management procedures that enhance Canal reliability, efficiency and safety.

The continuously changing and competitive business world demands the undertaking of a new effort. According to engineer José Reyes, Manager of the Programs and Investments Unit, the services provided to Canal customers will improve significantly with the adoption of the new version of the standard.

According to Reyes, the ISO 9001:2000 standard emphasizes the importance for the organization to identify, execute, take the necessary steps, and continually improve the effectiveness of the processes -- the foundation of the quality management system. 
In consequence, the daily performance of the Marine Operations Department, the Human Resources Department, the Contracting Division, the Industrial Shipyard, Electrical and Aqueduct Divisions and the Safety Division will be oriented towards enforcing compliance with the eight ISO 9001:2000 principles.

Focus on customers: Understand present and future customer needs, meet customer requirements, and exceed customer expectations.

  1. Leadership: Focus all efforts to establish a unity of purpose and create an environment that encourages people to achieve the organization's objectives.
  2. Personnel participation: Encourage the involvement of people, the organization's most important resource.
  3. Process approach: Use efficient processes to obtain more efficient an effective results.
  4. Focus on a systems approach: Identify, understand, and take the necessary steps to use a systems approach to manage interrelated processes. This will improve the organization's effectiveness and efficiency.
  5. Continual improvement: A permanent commitment of the organization.
  6. Decisions based on facts: Base decisions on the analysis of factual information and data.
  7. Mutually beneficial relationship with suppliers: Relations with suppliers and clients are interdependent. A mutually beneficial relationship increases the capacity of both parties to create value.

The focus of the 2000 version incorporates decision-making based on facts that take into account all data obtain from measuring the quality management system. Management will ensure the effective and efficient measurement, collection, and validation of data to ensure the organization's performance and the satisfaction of all parties.

The origin of the ISO 9000 standards dates back to the times when armies required military equipment of guaranteed quality. This led, several decades ago, to the introduction of a series of design and manufacture control standards, together with quality procedures, to ensure that manufacturers supplied equipment conforming to the requested specifications.

Safety Record

The Panama Canal Authority (CDP) has set new safety records at the Panama Canal as it pertains to maritime accidents. The total number of maritime accidents at the Panama Canal has been decreasing since the Panama Canal Authority took control of the waterway in 1999.

In 2006 and 2007, 10 maritime accidents were reported out of a total of 14,194 and 14,721 transits respectively. This compares with 12 maritime accident in fiscal years 2005 out of 14,011 transits.

This is all the more significant when considering the challenge of transiting an ever- increasing number of oceangoing vessels, which totaled 13,234 in fiscal year 2007, out of which 6,233 were Panamax.

"These records demonstrate to the world that the CDP means business. Reducing accidents and improving safety is absolutely paramount to our customers and to us. We are clearly seeing dividends from our total focus on continued capital improvements, development of a top-notch work force and management team, and investment in new equipment and technology."

Added to the challenge of coping with the increase in the number of ships and their larger size, were installation maintenance programs carried out without affecting the normal operations of the Canal.

During this fiscal year, there were five lane outages to replace lock tow tracks, to include culvert, gate, and chamber maintenance in order to continue to provide a reliable, safe, and efficient service.

From the time the CDP assumed control of the Canal, it has steadily reduced the number of maritime accidents, from 29 in fiscal year 2000, to only 10 in 2006 and 2007.

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