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Tuesday, September 22, 2009 - 2:34pm

State Officials Off To Panama

A Georgia delegation led by Governor Sonny Perdue embarks for Panama Wednesday to discuss expansion projects at the Panama Canal and the Port of Savannah.

Leaders from the Georgia Ports Authority and the Georgia Department of Economic Development are joining Perdue on the three-day trip.

Officials are scheduled to meet with counterparts at the Panama Canal Authority and the shipping company Maersk. Both represent big business for Georgia, said Georgia Ports Director Doug Marchand.

"Over 70-percent of our business is with Asian nations and the Panama Canal," said Marchand. "We have tremendous service through there."

A new set of locks in the Canal will double its capacity and allow larger ships to pass through. G.P.A. is seeking permission to deepen the Savannah River to handle those ships.

A long-delayed environmental impact statement on the deepending is expected this winter. The two projects are expected to be a key topic of discussion.