maritime

Incinerator project set to go

A company denies that it has received preferential treatment due to its ties with government.

Despite concerns raised by two agencies, it has been cleared to install an incinerator near a town.

waste service:A company with ties to former Panama Maritime Authority Director Rubén Arosemena has been cleared to install an incinerator at the Manzanillo International Terminal despite concerns of the Ministry of Health.

Before Rubén Arosemena left the post of administrator of the Panama Maritime Authority in September 2007 to become second vice president of the country, he processed a request for a project being orchestrated by close associates and family members.

That request was from a company called Ships Incineration Services and Plus, which wanted to treat and dispose of solid and liquid wastes from vessel docking at Panama's ports or transiting the Canal.

Shortly after Arosemena left office, the authority gave permission for the company to begin negotiating with Manzanillo International Terminal to install an incinerator within the port's facilities.

At the time the deal was being negotiated, the company's president was Modesto Luis Castaner, the husband of Vanessa Raquel Arosemena Valdés, who is Rubén Arosemena's sister. Other principals with the company are Fotis Lymberópulos and Carlos Díaz Caprile, close associates of the vice president.

Lumberópulos also had an inside connection at the Panama Maritime Authority as his brother was appointed to the agency's board.

On May 6, 2008, the Ministry of Health warned that the environmental impact study submitted by the company for the incinerator did not meet regulations. Also on July 14, 2008, environmental authority ANAM argued that the location of the incinerator failed to comply with the minimum distance to the nearest town, which was less than a mile away.

A month later and despite the warning it had earlier issued, ANAM approved the project.

“This company is transparent and has complied with all requirements of the law,” Castano said, stressing that his connection to the vice president is not a conflict of interest.

Vice President Arosemena declined to speak about the situation, saying through a spokesperson that the company has met all the requirements required by law.

Since July, the company has received other beneficial decisions from the government, including the cancellation of a $1,000 a month payment that the Maritime Authority decided to waive.

The company is now close to starting construction of the incinerator.

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