For the second time in the past year, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed on July 1 visited Panama to check up on the canal expansion project that has Georgia leaders scrambling to deepen the Savannah River.

But this time his mission was slightly different than last year’s visit alongside U.S. Vice President Joe Biden

The mayor attended the inauguration of Juan Carlos Varela, the Central American nation’s newly elected president, who also happens to be an engineering graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology

Mr. Reed has been a proponent of Georgia’s own $706 million ambition to deepen the Savannah River to accommodate larger vessels expected to traverse the canal when the expansion is completed in 2016. 

The visit comes nearly a month after President Barack Obama signed a bill putting in place the legal framework for Congress to fund the project. 

“I look forward to strengthening Atlanta’s relationship with the Republic of Panama as we begin the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project,” Mr. Reed said in a news release.

“With a shared interest in the investment of water transportation networks, Panama will prove to be an important partner in our city’s efforts to become the logistics hub of the Western Hemisphere.”

As the sixth president since Panama’s return to democratic rule in 1990, Mr. Varela will oversee the canal expansion project through his term, which ends in 2019. Mr. Varela served as the vice president of Panama from 2009 until he was sworn in as president after a protracted battle with the chosen successor of his former political ally, previous president Ricardo Martinelli. 

At the inauguration ceremony, Mr. Reed was in company with several high-ranking U.S. and state officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. Ambassador to Panama Jonathan FarrarMassachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, and Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson.