The Autoridad de Canal de Panama (ACP) .... In Action!
or .... Transiting Yachters Beware!

Republic of Panama, 22 Feb, 2001

Commodore of the Pedro Miguel Boat Club writes letter to the Director of the Autoridad de Canal de Panama

Franz Schöetz writes a letter to the Administrator of the Autoridad de Canal de Panama

Photos of the Gamboa Mooring Area with notations

Letters Supporting Reasonable Fees at the Panama Canal

Administrator's Reply to Franz Schötz

ISO 9001 Compliance Issues

Date Line: Republic of Panama, 11 March, 2001

    The Administrator of the Autoridad de Canal de Panama responded to the letter of Franz Schötz yesterday. The Administrator maintains that the ACP must charge all yachts by law and cannot waiver those fees. He further states that these fees have been place for a long time ..... this is true as far as it goes. It is also true that under the administration of the United States Panama Canal Commission, that in general, only the transit fees were charged the yachts, not all of the big ship ancillary fees.

    Once can hide behind the Organic Law of Panama that authorizes the existence of the Autoridad de Canal de Panama and its right to operate the Panama Canal in as much as the administration of the Panama Canal may not be able to waive fees ..... but they do have the right to set the amount of fees that will be charged to vessels and under what conditions. That is how the fees structure needs to be changed as if affects yachts. 

    There is no reason to charge yachts $300 per day to anchor anywhere in the operating waters of the Panama Canal; this is a ridiculous and usury fee. If one must charge for the yachts to anchor, why not some reasonable fee like $5 or $10 per night. This is a typical fee amount around the world for anchoring or tying in a mooring field supplied by yacht clubs and commercial marinas .... and for that money you get a launch service, a mooring, a landing pier and other services of value in exchange for your money. 

    The Administrator completely misses the point of this complaint .... the yacht is being charged a fee that is punitive in amount, and ridiculous in nature, for no service of any type. In this Panama and the Canal, to quote Mr. Don Parker of Annapolis, Maryland, USA, ".... could become famous as the bridge under which lives the mean old troll we learned of in children's tales." 

    The Autoridad de Canal de Panama is currently reviewing its charges ( for transit rates and services. This is an opportune time to remedy this grievous over charge and to continue to provide reasonably priced transits for small vessels and yachts of the pleasure class. 

    Let us continue to write the President of Panama and the Administrator, let us continue to encourage fair treatment of transiting yachts and discourage punitive charges by Panama for the use of the Panama Canal. Let us  ..... truly a "world utility" for shipping. Let us continue contacting our country's governmental agencies, or representatives and tell them to withhold any public funds that are to be used for development or loans in the Republic of Panama for the Panama Canal until such time yachts are treated with a fair transit pricing for all fees. 

Date Line: Republic of Panama, 20 Feb, 2001

    The yacht Nan Madol, a small 35' home built catamaran on her second circumnavigation, came to the Panama Canal to transit last week ..... routine. On Thursday the 15th of February the transit was started by Franz Schötz and seemed uneventful until his engine failed near Gamboa in the Panama Canal. His boat sailed to an area near the Panama Canal's large ship mooring area and anchored at the direction of the Autoridad de Canal de Panama's (ACP) transit advisor. The advisor told him he would stay here until is motor was repaired.

    Since Franz had checked out of Panama with the intention of going directly to sea from his transit, he decided to return to Colon and straighten out his immigration status on Friday.  On Saturday he started to see about resources for repair of the motor and on Sunday afternoon he came to the Pedro Miguel Boat Club to arrange to get the boat here for repair. 

    I, Commodore PMBC, happened to be here and ask him why he waited so long to try to move off the mooring area .... NO ONE TOLD him that for the privilege of anchoring on his own hook, he was being charged a mooring fee of $300 per day ... the same as a broken ship would pay if it was using the moorings at Gamboa. 

    Franz went into shock .... a solitary world cruiser on a very limited budget, is learning what it is like to use Panama's Canal. By the time that we were able to arrange a transit for the vessel on Tuesday the total bill for breaking down in the Canal was $2540 above the initial $500 transit fee.... $400 pilot delay fee, $1800 for mooring fees (they charge for the day you break down and the day you leave), and $400 for the launch to tow the vessel to the PMBC. We can understand the pilot delay fees and the tow fees, but the mooring fee is a fee with nothing received for the fee ... strictly a punitive fee for yachts.

    The hero in this is the ACP's port captain ... this person worked non stop to get the transit arranged and get the vessel moving to minimize the charges to the yacht. The villian is new Panamanian management of the Panama Canal ... they have stated in the past that they do not want yachts at the Panama Canal  as they do not "pay" their way. This statement was by the Panama Canal Commission Administrator, at the Public Hearings for raising the small vessel transit tolls in 1998. The same person in still the Administrator of the Canal today, but since the canal is no longer under the control of the United States, there is no redress for actions without reason or specifically exclusive by the officials.

    It is impossible for a yacht to compete with a commercial ship in the ability to pay tolls, yet this is what the administration of the Panama Canal is attempting to do .... to accomplish the stated purpose of eliminating yachts from the canal. The Neutrality Act of the Panama Canal (part of the Panama Canal Treaties) will not allow Panama to exclude anyone from the transiting the canal, but nothing prohibits them from economic exclusion of the users. 

    Under the operation of the United States Government, the transiting of yachts was considered a public service and responsibility to world. Now under the operation of the Panamanian Government everyone is fair game for ruinous fees. To appear that they are not raising the transit fee unreasonably, as predicted by many at turnover time, the ACP is doing the increase by the left hand; they are raising the fees for "other" services and using those fees punitively to increase their revenues or giving special exceptions to general operational and safety rules if you can pay "extra" fees.. 

I attempted to contact Mr. Quijano, the Maritime Director of the ACP, and contacted Mr. Manns the Chief of Transit Operations to try to have the mooring fee reduced ... the response was strongly negative. We do not make exceptions .... regardless of the fact that the transit advisor did not tell the yacht of the mooring fee, regardless of the fact that the yacht was not given the required transit information packet, regardless of the fact that the yachts do not get to use the moorings that they are being charged for, in fact nothing that I could bring up would make a difference. 

Now if you are a Maersk Lines ( ship there is an ACP directive out that every consideration will be made to accommodate those vessels, and other directives and operational policies that give similar support and accommodation to vessels or companies who can pay. But for yachts and the other "bum" boats that want a "free lunch" .... well let's just sweep them off to the side with restrictively high fees. No one cares and no one will do anything about it!

Folks it is time to make a statement to the Government of Panama and to the Autoridad de Canal de Panama:

First, write those folks listed below and tell them it is time to "grow up" and accept responsibility for being a world class nation and to operate the Panama Canal with the understanding that the Canal is a world resource, not just a "golden goose" for Panama.

Second, contact your country's governmental agencies, or representatives and tell them to withhold any public funds that are to be used for development or loans in the Republic of Panama until such time as the Government of Panama accepts that fact that the Panama Canal is a world resource and issues in writing a standard of treatment. All users should have access to the canal based on their economic ability; stop trying to eliminate the use of the canal by the yachts of the world through economic highway robbery.

It is time to bring home to the Republic of Panama that the world is a small place and everyone is part of it.

The President of Panama
The Administrator of the Panama Canal
The Marine Director of the Panama Canal
Public Relations of the Panama Canal


The President of Panama
011(507) 227-6944
Public Relations of the Presidencia
011(507) 227-4278
Voice/Snail Mail
The Administrator of the Panama Canal 
Panama Canal Authority
Corporate Communications Division
P.O. Box 025413
Miami, FL 33102-5413
011(507) 272-3100

Craig Owings
Pedro Miguel Boat Club

Email the Commodore of the Pedro Miguel Boat Club