Panamá, U.S. Sign Air Security Agreement
By Dialogo December 03, 2010As a reader of the aspects of security I find this Alliance a positive one as it offers travelers more confidence in the use of this form of transport and more in the case of the Airline Copa.
Panamá and the United States signed an agreement Nov. 29 to work closely
together in securing the international aviation system against terrorism and
The Memorandum of Understanding was signed during a visit to Panamá by U.S.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
"The security of the international aviation system relies on close
cooperation and global information sharing," Napolitano said. "This MOU
underscores the shared commitment of the United States and Panamá to enhance our
mutual security and secure air travel through enhanced information sharing and
Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli and Vice President Juan Carlos Varela
met with Napolitano during her visit and took part in the signing ceremony.
Napolitano also met with representatives from several other Central American
nations to discuss the United States’ continued collaboration with the region’s
governments to bolster aviation security and combat multinational threats.
Juan Carlos Varela, who in addition to his duties as vice president also
serves as Panamá’s foreign minister, said in a statement that the agreement would
improve security in airports and at the borders of both countries.
"This allows us, as a country, to prevent our airports and airlines from
being used for organized crimes," Varela said at the end of the ceremony.
"All of the information agencies from both governments will put information
into a database, not just about drug trafficking, but also about human trafficking,
terrorism and all kinds of crimes."
Varela said the agreement would allow for greater access to information about
The agreement also is timely, as Panamá’s Tocumen airport is undergoing an
expansion that will increase capacity by more than 50 percent by mid 2011. There
also is a new airport in the works for the city of Colon and the David airport is
While other specifics of the security agreement between the two nations were
not made public, the Department of Homeland Security has bolstered security at
airports throughout the United States by deploying law enforcement personnel,
behavior detection officers, air marshals, and explosives detection canine teams.
The department also is expediting the deployment of new Advanced Imaging
Technology (AIT) units to help detect metallic and non-metallic explosives and
implementing enhanced security measures for all air carriers with international
flights to the United States.
The AIT units are the so-called “body scanners” that recently met with
controversy in the American media when some travel groups threatened to boycott the
machines during the busy U.S. Thanksgiving holiday travel season.
The protests, however, never materialized and numerous polls have shown a
large majority of Americans support use of the scanners and other security measures.
Panamá’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on its website that
the agreement underscores the “efforts of the governments of presidents Ricardo
Martinelli and Barack Obama to fight drug trafficking and organized crime in all its
forms and manifestations.”
It goes on to say that specific steps to implement the initiative will be
developed through an additional “Operational Protocol.”
In addition to President Martinelli, Vice President Varela and Secretary
Napolitano, the signing ceremony was attended by Minister of the Presidency Demetrio
Papadimitriu; Security Minister José Raúl Mulino; Deputy Minister of Economy and
Finance Frank De Lima; Ambassador of Panamá in the United States, Jaime Alemán; the
U.S. Ambassador in Panama, Phyllis Powers; the Director of the National Police
Gustavo Pérez; and Director of Civil Aviation Rafael Barcenas.
Varela visits U.S.
Vice President Varela traveled to Washington DC shortly after the signing
During an official visit to the U.S. Capital, Varela is scheduled to meet
with senior administration officials and members of Congress in order to address
issues of common concern, including free trade, tax information exchanges and
regional security issues, according to a spokesman with the Ministry of Foreign
Varela also took part in a ceremony Nov. 30 where Panamá’s Copa Airlines
signed a sales agreement with Boeing for 22 new 737-800 airliners. The company had
recently announced the lease of 10 of the aircraft to COPA, with five to be
delivered in 2011 and five in 2012.
"We thank Copa Airlines for this significant order and are very proud to
partner with one of the most successful airlines in the industry," said Jim
Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "Copa's
exceptional business model, ideal geographic position and modern and efficient fleet
will continue to drive its leadership in the Latin American aviation market."
Pedro Heilbron, CEO of Copa also attended the ceremony in Washington.
"These 22 firm aircraft plus 10 options, which deliver between 2015 and
2018, are an integral part of our medium term growth plan," he said. "This
is the largest aircraft order in Copa's history, which is a reflection not only
of our confidence in the future of Latin America and Panamá, but also of our
successful business model, which has made our Hub of the America's the best
connecting point for intra-Latin America travel."
The 22 airplanes are valued at approximately $1.7 billion at list prices and
nearly double Copa's existing Next-Generation 737 fleet. The order is the
largest new aircraft order in Copa Airlines' history and is part of the
airlines' plan to continue to grow its fleet to meet market demands for
new-generation, more fuel-efficient airplanes, the company said in a news release.
The new airplanes will benefit from performance improvements expected to
result in a 2 percent reduction in fuel consumption through a combination of
airframe and engine improvements.
Operating out of the "Hub of the Americas" in Panamá City, Copa
provides service to 46 destinations in 24 countries.
In the past two years, Copa has purchased 37 next generation 737-800s new
from Boeing and entered into leasing agreements for an additional 10.