Wärtsilä, a leading provider of power plant and ship power solutions and services, today opened new offices and a workshop in Panama. Located in the International Business Park of Panama Pacifico, the new facilities are intended to meet growing market demand from customers in the area. The new workshop enables Wärtsilä to offer a wide range of services for engines, electrical and automation systems, propellers and thrusters, and to provide reconditioning services.

“Panama’s strategic importance as one of Latin America’s largest logistics centres and as a major area for ship servicing will grow in importance along with the expansion of the Panama Canal,” says Markku Aspholm, general manager, Wärtsilä in Panama.

“We see this as an excellent opportunity to offer maintenance and spare part services to vessels waiting for access to the canal. For ship owners, considerable downtime can be avoided through arranging maintenance operations while their vessels are queuing.”

Each year, some 15,000 vessels pass through the 80km canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. By investing in new machinery, Wärtsilä has been able to extend its range of workshop service offerings to customers to include maintenance of two-stroke components, propulsion unit services, electrical and automation services, and reconditioning services. The metallurgical repair of propellers is another important service segment now being offered.

“For Panama, the expansion in service business means increased job opportunities and a better image, and we are proud to be part of that development,” says Aspholm.

Large modern facilities

The new International Business Park in Panama Pacifico is being developed into a 26ha industrial and logistics park with corporate offices, call centres and facilities for distribution and light assembly companies. Hotels and the on-site airport provide travellers with easy access. As Panama Pacifico is a special economic area, certain industries benefit from special labour, legal, customs, immigration and tax incentives.

Wärtsilä’s newly constructed facilities consist of offices covering 440m² and 1,500m² of workshop space, a five-fold increase over existing arrangements. The range of services offered will be extended and staff will be increased through the recruitment of 12 new employees. These new recruits will receive orientation training at the Wärtsilä Land and Sea Academy. The company will employ 45 professionals in Panama by the end of 2010.

Operations at Wärtsilä in Panama include customer support, workshop and field services and the warehousing of selected components for engine and propulsion systems. Key customers for the company include international shipping lines whose vessels pass through the canal and visit its ports and shipyards.

A strategic location with increasing importance

Panama’s strategic importance in Latin America has grown in recent years. The expansion work to the Panama Canal currently being carried out will double the canal’s capacity by 2014. The new lock chambers will be 427m long, 55m wide and 18.3m deep, allowing the transit of vessels with a beam of 49 metres, an overall length of 366m and a draught of 15m. The growing number of vessels passing through the canal will increase the need for maintenance services, while the special economic area will make the importation of spare parts quick and easy.

Wärtsilä has been operating in Panama since 2007. In Central America, the installed capacity of Wärtsilä power plants totals 1,600MW as well as one power plant with a capacity of 96MW. In Panama, Wärtsilä’s installed capacity includes ship power on 12 vessels.