FA PANAMAX 2007 Ends, Ensures Continued Security of Panama CanalUS Navy | Sep 10, 2007
PANAMA CITY, Panama: More nations than ever teamed together in Fuerzas Aliadas (FA)PANAMAX 2007 to ensure the continued security of the Panama Canal, signs of both the multinational cooperative spirit and the importance of the waterway to worldwide commerce, high-ranking officials said during a closing ceremony Sept. 7.
“PANAMAX embraces the sense of community in the Americas,” U.S. Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, commander, U.S. Southern Command said at a closing ceremony for the exercise. “It is a symbol of cooperative approaches to shared challenges in this hemisphere.”
Nineteen nations, in cooperation with the government of Panama, deployed more than 30 ships, a dozen aircraft and 7,000 personnel during Aug. 29-Sept. 7 in the largest naval exercise in the Western Hemisphere this year.
“We aspire towards maintaining the Panama Canal, the neurological center of world commerce, free and safe from emerging threats that may appear in our surroundings,” said Daniel Delgado Diamante, Panamanian minister of government and justice.
PANAMAX this year demonstrated the real-world interoperability of the multinational civil and military forces, Stavridis said. Brazil and Peru Task Force Commanders took over command and control responsibilities when USS Wasp (LHD 1) was diverted to the coast of Nicaragua to offer humanitarian assistance after Hurricane Felix made landfall Sept. 4.
“I congratulate the participants for all of the flexibility they demonstrated in the face of this hurricane,” he said.
The admiral also lauded Honduras for allowing ground forces to participate at Soto Cano Air Base, and Panama for launching PANAMAX ALPHA, a first-ever internal exercise prior to FA PANAMAX 2007 that also ensured the security of the neutral waterway vital to global commerce.
The exercises are more important than ever with an expansion of the canal planned in the years ahead, said Rodrigo Cigarruista, director general of the Panamanian National Maritime Service.
“Every organization that deals with security is expected to test everything through evaluation,” he said through a translator. “The Panama Canal does not escape from this equation.”
Thousands of ships haul more than 200 million tons of cargo through the canal every year.
Panamanian officials noted the final day of PANAMAX marked the 30th anniversary of the Panama Canal Treaties with the United States, which governed the defense and operation of the canal and its permanent neutrality.
FA PANAMAX 2007 participating nations were: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Canada, Columbia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Netherlands, Panama, Peru, the United States and Uruguay. Three nations acted as observers: El Salvador, Mexico and Paraguay.
PANAMAX is a U.S. Southern Command joint and multinational annual exercise.