Comments, Letters and Other Issues
Pedro Miguel Boat Club verses the Autoridad del Canal de Panama

 

    Please read through these documents .... they will give you an insight into the problem that faces the Pedro Miguel Boat Club after 60 plus years of existence and service to the yachting community. We have tried to negotiate with the ACP and they refuse to discuss the issues of the movement of the PMBC or compensation for the PMBC. 

Review Historical Files of battle for existance of the PMBC Pre ACP!

PMBC Photos ........ Before and after the Autoridad del Canal de Panama's 
"Stop Transit Order"
Click for Detail Photo

Low angle Aireal Looking toward PM 94.jpg (866201 bytes) DSC00823.JPG (2995911 bytes)

Please give us your support and send emails to the following persons voicing your opinion .... 
or send one email to HELP-US@PMBC.WS and we will see that all parties get a copy and your comments get posted here: 

Person Website Email
President George Bush, United States White House president@whitehouse.gov
President Mireya Moscoso, Rep of Panama Presidencia ofasin@presidencia.gob.pa
V. President, Richard Cheney, United States White House vice.president@whitehouse.gov
 Carlos Alvarado, 
President Legislative Assembly Panama
Legislative Assembly  presidencia@asamblea.gob.pa
Jerry Salazar A., Minister of the Canal 
Autoridad del Canal de Panama
Panama Canal  valerio@psi.net.pa
Alberto Aleman Zubieta, Administrator 
Autoridad del Canal de Panama
Panama Canal aaleman@pancanal.com
Liriola Pitti, Instituto Panameño de Turismo IPAT ggral@ns.ipat.gob.pa
Juan AntonioTejada Espino, Defensoria del Pueblo Defensoria del Pueblo defensor@defensoriadelpueblo.gob.pa
Indira Hernandez, Public Affairs
Office of the President of Panama
Presidencia ihernandez@presidencia.gob.pa
Alexya Zelaya, Chamber of Tourism 
Camera de Turismo
Camera de Turismo, Panama camtur@orbi.net
Franco Rojas, La Prensa La Prensa frojas@prensa.com
Juan Carlos Navarro, Alcalde (Mayor), Panama City Municipio de Panama alcalde@municipio.gob.pa
El Siglo El Siglo velez@elsiglo.com

Short Version of the Story

Autoridad del Canal de Panama (ACP) attempts eviction of the Pedro Miguel Boat Club (PMBC) as "INTRUDERS"; the PMBC after 65 years in existence in its location is informed by the ACP that it has no rights, will not be compensated for its improvements, and are just plain and simple intruders. To try to economically destroy the Pedro Miguel Boat Club, so that it cannot fight the eviction, the ACP stops all yachts from transiting to the PMBC

The case, at the first step of the legal proceedings brought by the ACP, is found in favor of the Pedro Miguel Boat Club, emphatically noting that the PMBC is not an intruder or trespasser. The ACP retaliates by appealing the finding to the second step and stops all national and international member's yachts from transiting to the Pedro Miguel Boat Club. 

The PMBC responds to the stopping of its member's transits by submitting a request to the Supreme Court of Panama to have the actions of the ACP reviewed in a special administrative process as specified in the Constitution and laws of the Republic of Panama. The Supreme Court agrees to hear the request that questions the Constitutionality of the ACP's action, and a determination as to possible violation of several international treaties that the Republic of Panama is signatory to. 

Part of the procedure enacted requires that the ACP stops their action, that is the preventing of yacht transit to the PMBC, until the issue is decided by the Supreme Court. A member of the PMBC promptly requested a transit to the PMBC and was refused. A spokes person from the legal section of the ACP told the PMBC's lawyer, that the ACP's organic law places it beyond the jurisdiction of the requirements of the constitutional law of Panama that requires the ACP to desist it action until the case is decided. 

The ACP has stated that it intends to remove the PMBC from its site without compensation. Without compensation, the PMBC will cease to exist, and yachters in the Panama area will be the losers. It appears that the "rumor" among the government authorities is that the PMBC refuses to move. This could not be further from the truth ..... the PMBC cannot move, as it does not have a place to go to, or the financial reserves to move. The PMBC is ready and willing to meet anywhere, any time with the ACP or the Government of Panama to negotiate the relocation of the PMBC or financial compensation of the PMBC so that it may relocate its self.   

The PMBC has little cash reserves to use to fight, as it has provided pro bono support for the sailing community and charitable support for the local community instead of filling its coffers. If there are any folks in the legal profession in the USA, that would like to assist (pro bono) the PMBC in formulating a legal strategy and action, please contact the Commodore of the PMBC at commodore@pmbc.ws

The Whole Story In Detail

Letters
From: chuck phelan [mailto:.....@cox.net
Sent: Thursday, July 17, 2003 21:14 
To: help-us@pmbc.ws 
Subject: The PMBC history

I was born in Panama and raised both in Panama and the Zone, in the 40s and 50s i spent many weekends at the PMBC raceing home built hydro boats, fishing and enjoying the camaraderie and pot lucks of the PMBC meeting world cruisers and learning about boats. The PMBC was a part of my life. Today as i travel the world and meet fellow cruisers whom have transited the Canal , the PMBC and the Balboa yacht club are well known. The PMBC has been in the same location for many years and has been a great community neighbor and a watch dog for the canal area.The PMBC is without a doubt one of Panamas treasures, DO NOT LET IT DISAPPEAR!

Chuck Phelan

From: OsbornTed [mailto:office@cruising.org.uk]
Sent: Saturday, July 12, 2003 05:22 
To: ofasin@presidencia.gob.pa; valerio@psi.net.pa; aaleman@pancanal.com 
Cc: commodore@pmbc.ws; MIkedevon@aol.com 
Subject: Cruising Yachts Through the Panama Canal

To: The President of the Republic of Panama Minister for the Canal, Republic of Panama General Administrator, Panama Canal Authority

Copy: Representative of Panama at IMO (by post) Commodore of PMBC International Sailing Federation

From: The Cruising Association CA House, 1 Northey Street Limehouse Basin London, E14 8BT UK

Dear Sirs,

Cruising Yachts through the Panama Canal

The safe transit of yachts through the Panama Canal is of considerable importance to our yacht-cruising members. The canal is inevitably at the end of a lengthy ocean passage whether approaching from east or west so ease of passage through the Canal and provision of adequate stopping facilities with berthing, provisioning, repair facilities, etc. is of great importance.

We have now been informed by the Pedro Miguel Boat Club that a number of changes in administrative procedures and regulatory matters is taking place and that in its view these will severely disadvantage existing local sailors and the world-wide yacht cruising community. We have yet to hear from Cruising Association members who have recently used the canal but are sufficiently concerned by what we have learned from others to ask you to consider or re-consider the changes that you would appear to be implementing in availability of yachting facilities.

We would stress that our concern is solely with the safety of cruising yachts. This requires that good standard facilities are provided at each end of the canal and in the central lakes area. These include an anchorage, alongside berthing, provisioning, lift-out and repair facilities at each of the three places. it is our experience world-wide that these facilities are best provided by private 'club' organisations rather than commercial shipyard or standard marina operations. Invariably the clubs provide a considerable number of additional services such as general advice and assistance, postal package management, communications and a local base which encourages tourism and travel into the area. This then amounts to an attractive local package which does much to encourage yachts either to stay or facilitate their rapid departure and of course leads to considerable economic support for the local communities.

We recognise, of course, that shipping must have priority over yachts but it is equally important to note that yachts are at all times vulnerable and in our view they do merit the provision of suitable facilities. We would ask you therefore to consider reinstatement of existing yachting facilities where closed-down or removed or their replacement with suitable alternatives.

Yours sincerely,

John Chaplin, CBE President, Cruising Association

Note: This Email is sent from a private address for convenience. Replies if any may be made to the same address or to the Cruising Association office at "office@cruising.org.uk". Our website address is "www.cruising.org.uk"

 

From: Ornocoflow
Sent: Wednesday, July 09, 2003 20:08 
To: editor@southwindssailing.com 
Cc: commodore@pmbc.ws 
Subject: Panama Canal and PMBC

My husband and I spent several months on our sailboat at the Pedro Miguel Boat Club (PCMB) in the Panama Canal during the Hurricane season in 2000. Before arriving in the Canal Zone from the Pacific side we had no idea what to expect. What we would have done without a place like the PCMB I cannot imagine. It sickens us to think that it's existence is threatened! The Boat Club is a meeting ground for small sailboat cruisers from all over the world as they make the transit from east to west and west to east. At a relatively low cost and in a simple, rustic setting they provide all the services needed to prepare for not only transiting the canal, but major ocean passages. Services include boat hauling and repair facilities, workshop, satellite TV, Internet services, laundry, community kitchen and showers. It is a live aboard cruiser's dream come true in the middle of the Panama Canal! It would be a real tragedy to the World-Wide network of cruisers to lose this unique facility. Hats off to Craig Owings who certainly helped us, and has been of valuable assistance to hundreds of other boats passing through over the years. 

B & G Hilton 
s/v Orinoco Flow now in Sarasota, FL

From: Wildtur
Sent: Saturday, June 21, 2003 15:16 
To: help-us@pmbc.ws 
Subject: from ml larson

Less room at the Panama Canal

From M.L Larson Cruising in panama.

Sir: I am writing to give an update on the state of affairs in Panama concerning yachts. I transited the canal last year and have been around the Canal Zone for about a year. During this time I have witnessed, or heard from reliable sources, the decline of the resources available to yachts that expect to stay and repair their boats in the canal area. When I first came to Panama there were four marinas, used by transit sailboats, for reasonable prices. Flamingo yacht club and the surrounding area used as anchor out locations. This yacht club has limited haulout facilities but can handle larger yachts.

Balboa yacht club – in the Canal Zone and used as a staging area for yachts about to transit and long-term storage. The club provides moorings, water and restaurant . Pedro Miguel Boat Club – this club provided limited dockage (30) and haul out facilities (20 - 30) with repair facilities on site for do it yourselfers or professional labor. The club is also in fresh water so there is no barnacle buildup. This facility also offers a very secure area for the storage of boats while owners are away.

Panama canal yacht club in balboa with the nearby FLATS used to anchor yachts that do not use the club docks. The club provided very limited haul out, fuel water and restaurant. There is dockage for approximately 50 slips used for transits and storage.

These facilities also provided jobs and a not insignificant cash flow into the Panamanian economy. The jobs were at all levels from wash down to metalwork and fiberglass repair. Each yacht in these facilities, IF PEOPLE WERE ABOARD, provided in addition to dockage/storage fees, a estimated $500 to $1500 cash flow per month into the economy. Grocery stores, taxis tours etc. Within the last year, the Balboa yacht club has been given an eviction notice. The anchorage at Flamingo yacht club has been officially closed (however some yachts still anchor there). The actual Flamingo yacht club has proved to be very upscale and quite pricey. The Pedro Miguel Boat Club cannot accept yachts due to a undefined rule from the panama canal authority. The club still has boats resident there due to repair problems. The Panama Canal yacht club is on a year-by-year leasing arrangement and is being viewed as an expansion container port. For more information please e-mail (commodore@pmbc.com)

This means that the Panama does not want or need yachts coming to Panama. The waters on both sides of Panama provide excellent cruising with friendly people. However it will become very hard for cruisers to find parts and repair facilities to continue the trip, or a place to store the boat for a side trip. This is due to the lack of facilities needed for the yacht repair and storage. The loss of jobs and economic gains due to yachts and the attendant needs will surely make Panama a poorer place to visit. The loss of income to Panama, while not immense, will certainly make the overall economic outlook poorer. If Panama would begin to make both cruisers and tourists more welcome by allowing reasonably priced facilities of all sorts to either remain or be built, the benefits to the economy as a whole would be great

I hope that those who follow us will find Panama as nice a place as we did. But I am beginning to have doubts. If you plan to cruise through Panama, please come prepared with parts and cash. Plan also on a quick and inconvenient transit.

M.L.L Somewhere in the Caribe

-----Original Message-----
From: Jimmy Cornell [mailto:jimmy@noonsite.com
Sent: Friday, June 20, 2003 04:57 
To: Craig Owings 
Subject: Noonsite News

Dear Craig,

OK, the whole story is now up on Noonsite (over 500,000 hits per month). Look it up; http://www.noonsite.com/Members/jimmy/R2003-06-20-2

Regards

Jimmy

------Original Message------From: Commodore, Pedro Miguel Boat Club
Sent: June 19, 2003
To: Administrator, Panama Canal (aaleman@pancanal.com
CC: help-us@pmbc.ws 
Subject: Relocation of Pedro Miguel Boat Club

Mr. Aleman Zubieta, Administrator
Autoridad del Canal de Panamá
Balboa, Republic of Panamá

June 18, 2003

Re: Relocation of Pedro Miguel Boat Club

Sir,

It has come to my attention that there may be a misunderstanding on the part of the officials of the Autoridad del Canal de Panamá, being that the Pedro Miguel Boat Club is not willing to relocate from its site on Miraflores Lake, at Pedro Miguel. To the contrary we are willing to relocate as soon as it becomes economically feasible for us to do so.

We are available to meet with members of the Autoridad del Canal de Panamá to negotiate the relocation allowance of the Pedro Miguel Boat Club, or financial compensation of the Pedro Miguel Boat Club for its installed improvements.

Relocation allowance, or compensation, will allow the Pedro Miguel Boat Club to move to another location within the Panama Canal, or elsewhere within the Republic of Panama, and to continue its work of providing a tourism haven for local and international pleasure craft, employment of local marine craftsman, and support of community charities.

 To these ends, we await your assistance.

Sincerely,

 Craig Owings
Commodore
Pedro Miguel Boat Club

-----Original Message----- 
From: Bunn, Jennings
Sent: Monday, June 16, 2003 2:01 PM 
To: 'president@whitehouse.gov'
Cc: 'osasin@presidencia.gob.pa' ;  'vicepresident@whitehouse.gov' ; > 'presidencia@asamblea.gob.pa' ;  'valerio@psi.net.pa' ; 'help-us@pmbc.ws'  
Subject: Help-Us.htm

Dear gentlemen: 

Something is wrong with this picture! Is this the  action of a just and fair government, or just one more example of the total disregard for personal rights in a 3rd world country. Stop this unjust action, or at least compensate the owners fairly for the 65 years of service provided to those who have passed these locks. 

Respectfully, 
Jennings Bunn, Jr.

-----Original Message----- From: Craig Owings
Sent: Sunday, June 15, 2003 09:23
To: Jean Marcel Chéry (mchery@prensa.com)
Cc: help-us@pmbc.ws  
Subject: Pedro Miguel Boat Club

Good morning,

Read your article in the Sunday, 15th La Prensa (http://www.prensa.com/hoy/portada/1075712.html). There is much more to the story than told in your short.

Are you interested in doing the whole story ..... intrigue, treachery, and other thoughts of interest?

Visit our website and check out the issues http://www.pmbc.ws ... find out some of the reasons that the Autoridad del Canal de Panama (ACP) wants us out, besides the stated. Find out what the Pedro Miguel Boat Club (PMBC) means to the local community in tourism, charity and jobs.

There is a lot more to this than the small part you have stated ...... every one is sheltering the ACP as a "national treasure" while the ACP does as it pleases without control. The issue of right to compensation is basic in the law of Panama, and the United States, when the "state" wants to "take" a facility. The ACP does not want to establish a precedence for payment of claims ..... why?

I suspect it has to do with future expansion of the Panama Canal .... the ACP will have to make a new lake on the west side of the Panama Canal to supply water to the 3d locks and the canal in general. When this flooding happens there will be thousands of people forced to move from their "property" and NONE of these folks have a "contract" with the ACP. So if the ACP can succeed in removing the PMBC from its site claiming lack of "contract" and the ACP's right to "determine" who has "rights", then the ACP can use this precedent to remove all the folks in the areas to be flooded by the new lake, WITH OUT COMPENSATION.

But you say they have "rights" ... titles, possession, or have lived on the land for years; OK, but so has the Pedro Miguel Boat Club ... and we have a lease from the Hacienda y Tesoro! But the ACP has decided that the lease and 65 years of occupation mean nothing since they did not issue a license. That is a fine position, and if the ACP chooses not to have the Pedro Miguel Boat Club within its operating area, we can accept that.

What we cannot, and will not accept, is that the ACP has the right to remove people without COMPENSATION. Either by moving the people to another location of equal usefulness, or by compensating financially those people dislocated so they may move to another area as they can find. This is what the Corregidor of Ancon is saying with his decision about an eviction for "intrusion" ..... the Pedro Miguel Boat Club is not an intruder, rather a tenant that the ACP wants to evict, and therefore must compensate the PMBC.

The issues and politics of this run much deeper that you imagine.

If you need more information or would like to do a full length story on the Club, please feel free to contact me.

Yours,

Craig Owings 
Commodore, PMBC 
commodore@pmbc.ws 
"The Voice of World Cruisers at the Panama Canal"

CM Owings ....... "it is a long way we have come in this life; more interesting is the course that we sail into the future, and the adventures yet to be taken."

Article from La Prensa, 15 June, 2003 ..... Author, Jean Marcel Chéry

This article is in Spanish, and covers some of the issues. 
Click "La Prensa" to go directly to the article on the website. 

-----Original Message----- 
From: Jan Radjeski
Sent: Sunday, June 15, 2003 05:49 
To: HELP-US@pmbc.ws 
Subject: Pedro Miguel Boat Club

Please do not under estimate the importance of the Pedro Miguel Boat Club in the Panama Canal. Cruising Yachts need a mid point facility for rest, repairs, etc. Do not underestimate the positive economic impact that people cruising by boat contribute to the immediate communities near boat clubs and the country as a whole. Often boats are left at available marinas while the owners and crew go ashore for exploration and shopping. Cruisers transiting the canal benefit Panama and the many counties opened up to them by having this passage available. Further limitations, restrictions and exorbitant fees for non commercial traffic in the canal will create hardships economically and socially as the passage of cruisers transiting the canal cut off.

Jan & Nadine Radjeski S/V Journey 44' CSY (intending on transiting the canal west bound in 2005)

----Original Message----- 
From: Ron Sheridan
Sent: Saturday, June 14, 2003 22:34 
To: csy list
Cc: help-us@pmbc.ws
Subject: Dreams, Reality and Thanks.

Hello CSY folks,

Hang in here if you will as I am going somewhere important with this message.

CSY's were originally built to satisfy the company's need to fill slots in their Charter Fleet. A fleet in need of boats to take "Dreamer's" and the Realists, to where they-Could Go-Anywhere. Most if not all charterers dreamt of the South Seas offered in the stories of Mutiny and the Bounty and South Pacific. They/we dreamed of getting there in the manner of Sterling Hayden but 'we' probably saw ourselves over time, closer linked to the few couples that got to 'live' the dream and did so via the Panama Canal with normal budgets-not Hollywoods.

I was lucky enough to have a grandfather talk to me every Sunday, when I was a child, about his sailing days. From age 13-18 he sailed on ships the old way, 3 times around the world via Southern routes under the Horn and Africa. Then he jumped ship in NY to start my family in 1898. Quite a guy. I dreamed of his stories and hoped to someday do something similar. However, I was born in 1946, not 1883 and in 'my reality' there was the Panama Canal. Heck, to me the 'Canal' was the stuff of my history books and encyclopedia! It was borne of the sweat, blood and money of America, it was American.

OK, reality... Carter gave it away.

I still dream. I am still a realist. I've also worked most of my life to obtain my 'dream' of eventually having the ability to sail off to the South Pacific and enjoy whatever is there in my retirement years. I am also an American, live and kickin'! (To understand further, you will learn more in the sites below.)

Switching gears: A member of our CSY list that has in the past given quite a bit of himself to answer our needs/questions in amazing depth, now has a need. He needs everyone he can get, to start writing some emails to help-us@pmbc.ws to save what he was worked for for 18 years and what will keep 'Our' dream alive. I mentioned this to the attendees at the CSY Gam in brief. Please read the information on Craig's (Commodore PMBC ...publisher's note) web site and if there is anything any of you can or would do, understand that you will not only be helping him but the cruisers of the world (maybe yourselves someday) and myself. Spend a few minutes as a payback to help keep the Pedro Miguel Boat Club in the Panama Canal a viable entity. Craig is the Commodore of the club and the home site is www.pmbc.ws The specific problems are noted on http://pmbc.ws/htmls/watchdog.html

Panama, thru one of their for-profit arms, seems to be trying to make the yacht clubs in the Panama Canal Zone, disappear. There are only 3 Clubs that cruisers need in Panama. One on each side (Caribbean and Pacific), and One in the middle (the PMBC). The one in the middle is where you can effect repairs, long term storage, etc. The others are check-in points, but are also in trouble.

This "Is" a CSY issue, unless CSY's are no longer World Cruising -Blue water boats! Unless you are content to have the dream diminished to less than what was and still 'is' available, now is the time to attempt to defend some turf. Not having safe and affordable access to the Pacific Ocean, is not acceptable to me and I hope you agree.

I am asking anyone that has ever profited with knowlege from this site, to do a "Payback" and a step forward in who and what we are.

thank you, 

Ron Sheridan, SV Memory Rose, PH Ketch, #2

From: Commodore, PMBC
To: Editor, Ocean Navigator Magazine ............5 June 2003

 

Re:   Just a comment on the Chartroom Chatter (Ocean Navigator, Jan/Feb 2003 Issue # 127, page 18) from Bill Clark in which he relates a discussion with Alberto Aleman Zubieta, the Administrator of the Autoridad del Canal de Panama (ACP).

 

Good day,

 

Just reading the Chartroom Chatter (Ocean Navigator, Jan/Feb 2003 Issue # 127, page 18) from Bill Clark in which he relates a discussion with Alberto Aleman Zubieta, the Administrator of the Autoridad del Canal de Panama (ACP). There are a few misunderstandings in the article, or better said some clarifications as to the commentary and the realities of Panama’s Canal.

 

Mr. Aleman Zubieta is the person who stated in the US Government public hearings of 1998 on increase of tolls for yachts in the Panama Canal (he was then the Panama Canal Commission Administrator), that the canal could never charge the full cost of transiting to a yacht, and in fact the yachts distracted from the business of transiting ships through the canal. To this distraction it was inferred that if the yachts went away that would be fine, but as long as the canal was required to transit the yachts under the Panama Canal Neutrality Treaty, they would.

 

When Panama formed the ACP, the ACP was made a "for profit" operation of the Panamanian Government. The decision was made to make each user of the Panama Canal pay the actual "usage" costs (cost based accounting). To this end the ACP has used "administrative" fee increases that are applied to the yachts for their cost of transit .... this causes the actual payment goes up, but the "transit toll" stays the same. The ACP is using administrative fess, initiating some and increasing others, to increase their income without increasing actual “transit tolls”. The bottom line is that it costs lots more than the “transit fee” listed in the Marine Tariffs of the Panama Canal to actually cross the Panama Canal.

 

Contrary to Mr. Clark's understanding of the increase of yacht clubs in Panama, the total number of yacht facilities in the canal area has increased by one to date. This is a very nice facility, but limited in the number of vessels that it can accommodate and the other projected marinas are just paper work dreams to date.

 

In Panama the three major canal area yacht clubs are the Balboa Yacht Club, the Pedro Miguel Boat Club, and the Panama Canal Yacht Club. The Balboa Yacht Club is a mooring field at the side of the Pacific approaches to the canal, the Panama Canal Yacht Club is in the Caribbean entrance to the canal, and Pedro Miguel Boat Club is in the canal.

 

The Panama Canal Yacht Club is struggling under the burden of an almost $7000 per month "rent" payment to the concessionaire of the port area of Cristobal, the Balboa Yacht Club is fighting for recognition of its rights to the land portion of its facility that was taken from it after the implementation of the Panama Canal Treaty, and there is an attempt by the ACP to force the  Pedro Miguel Boat Club out of existence.

 

In fact it is the ACP that attempting to force out of business one of the oldest boat (yacht) clubs in Panama, the Pedro Miguel Boat Club (PMBC). The ACP has determined that after 65 years the PMBC is a "threat" to the operation of the Panama Canal and wants the PMBC to vacate its facility in the Miraflores Lake, between the Miraflores Locks and the Pedro Miguel Locks.

 

Mr. Zubieta has been repeatedly asked to start a dialog to identify a new site in the Panama Canal for the PMBC, or to compensate for the improvements of the PMBC, so that the PMBC might relocate to another location outside the Panama Canal operating area.

 

To this day the Administrator of the ACP refuses to discuss the issues, in fact he has caused the ACP to attempt an "eviction" of the PMBC as "intruders" and has ordered the canal to not transit yachts to the PMBC in an effort to force the PMBC to close its facility for lack of membership access and by economic strangulation. The PMBC is the only extended maintenance facility in Panama that is not a commercial shipyard. The other clubs have haul out facilities, but there is nowhere to haul a boat for major long term repairs or for safe long term dry storage of a vessel.

 

In reality the quality of the facilities for cruising sailors at the Panama Canal are eroding. If the "projects" are completed for the new marinas, there will be plenty of "gold plate" facilities for the mega yachts and the rich, but the common sailor/cruiser will find slim, expensive pickings when they come to Panama to transit the Panama Canal.

 

As for the ACP's transit operation of yachts there are many factors that now come into play, and issues that could be addressed to relieve the "stress" on the money making business of the Panama Canal while still allowing yachts inexpensive, safe transit of the Panama Canal as a public service. Over the years the yachting community of Panama has requested the implementation of a yachting advisory council to the Panama Canal, similar to the one established for commercial shipping interests; to date the requests have been ignored by the canal.

 

The issue of night transits has been addressed repeatedly to the Panama Canal organization. There is no absolute restriction by regulation on night transit of vessels, and the night is the most underutilized canal operation time, but the ACP does not allow it citing "security & safety" issues. Those issues are not enumerated directly, nor are solutions sought for those perceived problems.

 

Rafting of vessels is used to get more yachts through the canal in the available daylight transit slots, but the majority of yachts damaged in transiting the canal are in "raft-ups". Yacht fittings and construction is just not designed to take the loadings imposed on them by the weight of 2 or 3 vessels “hanging” on the sides of each other; yacht scantlings are designed to carry the loads of the vessel, not multiple vessels.

 

The new Panamanian "Organic Law" forming the Autoridad del Canal de Panama, allows damaged vessels to claim for those damages only through an administrative system of the same ACP; appeals may be made only to the Maritime Court of Panama. What happened to the rights of a vessel to adjudicate in its home country, or the country of its owners, as is common in international maritime law?

 

Again the ACP is restricting the options of the yachting community. If you have a problem with the ACP and they determine that you have violated their operating and safety rules, they can assess fines to $1,000,000 administratively, depending on their decision of the severity of offence ..... and the adjudication and appeal process is completely within (restricted to) their organization or the Maritime Court of Panama. What happened to the good old legal system of laws, judges, and fairness? One cannot remove the case to an impartial venue; this is Panama’s canal, and only they can determine if they have “wronged” you while you are in transit and under their legal control. In the Panama Canal the pilot is the legal master of the transiting vessel, you are required to do what he says, even if you know it is wrong, unsafe, or just not possible for your vessel.

 

A recent example of this “fairness” that you may find hard to believe .... the US flag vessel MARSALA mistakenly navigates up the canal approaches looking for one of the local boat clubs toward the Miraflores Locks; the master at no time causes any navigational problems in the canal, nor is he notified by Flamenco Signal (the ACP port operations control station) that he is in restricted waters, nor are there advisory signs along the canal banks indicating restricted navigation, and there are other small private vessels operating in the area.  Realizing his error as he approaches Miraflores Locks without finding the club, he turns around and starts navigating back down the canal approach.

 

MASALA was then stopped by the Servicio Maritimo Nacional (SMN), boarded and searched, at the ACP's request. When nothing was found amiss and all documents in order, he was released.

 

Later, after paying for a transit of the Panama Canal, when attempting to arrange the actual transit date of the Panama Canal, the ACP informed him that he needed to post a "bond" of $2500 with the ACP, against an "administrative" fine the ACP intended to levy. They could not tell him how much, or what the detailed reason for the fine was, but kept stating that he entered a "restricted" area, and they had a right to fine him, and intended to do so. Until such time as the “bond” was posted, the MASALA could not transit. To date the issue is still pending …. the MASALA has not transited the Panama Canal. As an added indicator of the ACP’s fairness …. if you accept their “fine” without complaint, the will reduce it by 30%. However if you protest the fine “reduction” evaporates ….. fairness in other terms is called coercion.

 

The bottom line is that the Panama Canal is no longer the yacht friendly place it once was. You cannot depend on the legal system of the United States Government, or other governments, to prevent "heavy handedness" in the operation of the canal. No longer can the Panama Canal be held accountable in the light of any law besides their own.

 

Until there is another way to "round-the-horn" at the equator, the canal is a requirement for most yachts moving from ocean to ocean. Use it, but do so understanding the risks, and the rules and responsibilities are not as they were. Yachts are truly "second class" users of the Panama Canal.

 

From: Commodore, PMBC
To: Colin Powell, Secretary of State, United States of America ............5 June 2003


Info copy of letter to the Honorable Colin Powell, Secretary of State of the
United States of America ... sent 03 June 2003

Good day Mr. Secretary,

I would like to have an email address for the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. This does not need to be a direct email address, rather one that I can send info copies to in the issue of the Pedro Miguel Boat Club, Rep of Panama, verses the Autoridad del Canal de Panama, an Organic Agency of the Government of Panama.

This issue has many aspects, and as the Government of Panama is not responding to the Pedro Miguel Boat Club, and is stonewalling any resolution
of the matter, and is taking economic actions against the Pedro Miguel Boat Club to cause is economic demise, by actions in conflict with the Panama Canal Neutrality Treaty, I want to keep your office abreast of the situation.

The Pedro Miguel Boat Club is a non profit organization that is affected by the Panama Canal Treaties. The club is trying to resolve its issues with the Autoridad del Canal de Panama, to little result since the final turnover of the Canal to Panama. The club is a former Delaware non profit organization that has been in existence since the mid 1930's providing facilities and a "home" to yachts of the world.

The club changed its organization to a Panamanian non profit organization in 1983 under the requirements of the Carter-Torrijos Panama Canal Treaty and has existed since in compliance with the requirements of Panama and the former Panama Canal Commission since.

As we cannot seem to make the legal system of Panama respond, and as the Autoridad del Canal de Panama is taking actions to stop our members from entering the club, I am starting an international information campaign to bring the public opinion to bear on, and to "educate" the Government of Panama as to the issues involved and as to the importance of the Pedro Miguel Boat Club to the yachting community and to the economy of the Rep. of Panama.

I believe that you, and the U.S. Government, have an interest in this matter and need to be informed. Ad majority of the vessels transiting the Panama Canal under the U.S. Flag are yachts and small vessels I believe that the United States has an inherent interest in this matter.

Thank you for your consideration,

From: Commodore, PMBC
To: SP Terry
2 February 2003

There is no transparency to the actions of the ACP.  The ACP has blocked the transit of its customers to and from the Pedro Miguel Boat Club. The ACP has done this with not Advisory to Mariners or other Notice to Shipping .... many yachts are headed this way to Panama and the PMBC with the intention of staying and working on their boats at the PMBC.

 

The goal of ISO 9001 is standardization of operating procedures so that the customers of an ISO certified organization know what is going on. In this case the neither the PMBC, or canal users, can get the ACP to show any written directive implementing the restriction on transit by users of the Panama Canal.

 

The actions of the ACP are very much non transparence deliberately obscuring the actions of the ACP from public view.

 

Yours,

From: SP Terry
To: ACP
21 January 2003

 

Date: 05-15-2001

Subject: Panama Canal Receives ISO 9001 Certification

Panama, May 15, 2001 -

 

...By establishing clearly defined and documented processes for developing and controlling service quality, the certification enables the ACP to increase customer assurance and promotes better client-ACP communications. It also identifies the ACP as a world-class standard corporation Furthermore, the focus on resource utilization results in increased efficiency. As a whole, the certification helps the ACP meet its constitutional mandate to profitably operate the Canal and to contribute to the development and progress of Panama.

 

ISO 9001 encompasses a series of voluntary international standards that have been used to establish and maintain a quality administration system for product manufacturers or service providers. Implementation of ISO 9001 requires the ACP to review and continuously improve all current procedures. “This standard gives us a method to ensure that work is always carried out in the established manner, which helps reduce errors,” Quijano stated. “At the same time, it obligates us to regularly re-examine our work processes, with the objective of correcting irregularities and improving that which we are already doing well.”

 

I also understood that a goal of ISO was to make the organization TRANSPARENT to the client. Why is it impossible to find out why vessels are not permitted to stop at PMBC?

          

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