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Petroterminal de Panama, S. A.

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Our History

The origins of Petroterminal de Panama, S.A. (PTP) date back to the end of the 1970’s, when the production of Alaskan petroleum began with great volumes of crude oil; the production surplus needed to be transported to the eastern coast of the United States. Crude oil transportation would be a complex and expensive  operation because supertankers had superior dimensions and drafts than Panamax vessels which transit  the Panama Canal.

On September 1977, Brothers Harold and Raymond Bernstein proposed to the Panamanian government the construction of petroleum facilities at the Charco Azul Bay, 10 kilometers south of Puerto Armuelles, province of Chiriqui.  Their offer was accepted because it represented a millionaire investment for the country which would generate jobs and wealth during the construction and operation of the storage facilities and petroleum transportation.  From the beginning, PTP was conceived as a joint venture (Panamanian government and private capital) administrated by NIC Holding and operated by Panamanian professionals and technicians.

While the construction of the Charco Azul Terminal was underway, PTP began its operations at Parita Bay, using two large tankers with floating storage:  British Renown and British Resolution.  The first tanker to discharge crude at this Bay was de SS New York of 264,000 DWT.  This vessel transferred approximately 1,800,000 barrels of petroleum.

On April 10th, 1979 the Charco Azul Terminal started operations a year after its construction had started.  In 1980 PTP and the Panamanian government reached an agreement to build the trans-isthmian pipeline and the Atlantic Terminal at Chiriqui Grande, Bocas del Toro.  On July 1981 the American company Morrison Knudsen International, widely experienced in the design and construction of this type of facilities started the construction process to build a 130 kilometer pipeline.

The pipeline was constructed to facilitate the transportation of Alaskan North Slope Crude oil (ANSCO) from Valdez, Alaska to refineries on the Gulf coast of the US. The pipeline streamlined transportation by allowing the use of larger tankers and shortened the voyage between Panama and the US Gulf vs. transshipment of ANSCO through the Panama Canal.

With the opening of the trans-isthmian pipeline, PTP contributed with $17,000,000  to build the Chiriqui – Bocas del Toro road; this important road has enormously contributed to develop the occidental area of Panama. 

In 1994 PTP shareholders and executives visualized the construction of a general cargo port at Chiriqui Grande which began operations on May 16th, 1997.  Commerce, agro-industry and construction of the western section of Panama have benefitted from this pier through import and export activities.

Due to changes in U.S. petroleum by-product legislation, Alaskan surplus oil production was no longer available for transportation through the pipeline.  This measure caused pipeline operations to cease in 1996.  In 2003 PTP entered into an agreement with Swiss based Castor Petroleum which allowed reactivation of pipeline activities.