Transiting the Panama Canal without an agent – januari 2018
To save money, our plan was to manage the administration of a Panamacanal transit without an agent. To be able to do all the phonecalls it is good to have a local sim-card. Everyone at the canaloffice speaks good english.
As a start, study the form 4352i ”Procedures for securing a handline transit of the Panama Canal”.http://pancanal.com/common/maritime/forms/4352-ENG-201211.pdf
We also studied other sources like www.yachtadina.co.uk/panamacanaltransit a bloggpost from 2014 with a good review.
This is the steps we followed:
- Getting registered in the system
Find and fill in form number 4405i. We found it here: http://pancanal.com/common/maritime/forms/4405.pdf
(or go to pancanal.com klick on maritime services, customer forms and then document namned ”Handline Inspection”). Print it, fill it in and scan. Then finally e-mail it to OPTC-ARA@pancanal.com and OPRT-ARP@pancanal.com . Leave the SIN number field empty as you will get that number later in the process.
Call to the Panama Canal main office on (+507) 443 2298 an hour or so later to make sure they recieved the form and to get the Ad Measurment appointment.
- Having your Ad Measurement appointment
We were anchored at the Flats since the day before. Our appointment was between 8.00 and 12.00. We called once, late the day before to confirm, and once more at 9.00 the day of the appointment. He came at 10.00. He was very correct and spoke good english. We hade to take one end of the tape each and he was very specific were to hold it. He filled in several forms and handed out the forms needed for the bank and the card with the SIN, ”ship identification number”.
- Paying for your transit
Using the form Attachment to 4614 which the Ad Measurer gives you, you will need to fill in details about your bank account to enable them to make a bank transfer of the buffer back to you after your transit. All papers must be signed by the same person to avoid hazzle. Bring passports and copy of passports and the forms.
From the Flats we took a boattaxi to the muelle 5 with Antonio ”Tono” (+507) 6660 6083 (speaks very limited english). He brought us in his car to the Citibank. There is no ATM at the Citibank but the next bank a block away has three ATMs. We walked there and got the money. You are allowed to get 500USD/withdrawal, maximum 2000USD/day and account. Walk back and pay at the desk. The driver picked us up again and brought us the same way back, first car then boat. That was a wet boatride!
- Getting the transit date and confirm it
Call to (+507) 272 4200 or 4202 at 18.00 the same day you visited the bank to confirm that they recived the payment and to get your transit date.
We then phoned 48 hours and 24 hours before our transit date to reconfirm the date and to get our exact transit time. Transit dates do get moved occasionally so this is recommended.
- Decide were to wait for the transit date
We moved from the Flats and anchored in front of Shelter Bay Marina. We don´t know if it is allowed or not, but nobody bothered us about anchoring there. Easy to take the dingy in to the marina, tie up to a friends boat and pay for the laundry facilities or buy a beer. We were very correct, not to use the free marina facilities like bathroom, pool and the free bus to Colon and so on. The last day when we called the marina on VHF 74 for permission to fuel up 250l diesel and to pick up our linehandlers at the fuel dock they first wanted to charge us a slipfee. After some polite negotiation we did not have to pay any fee.
We got the impression that it is ok to anchore at the Flats for a couple of days and you can of course get a slip in the Shelter Bay Marina if there is space. If you have linehandlers organized, Rio Chagres can be an alternative.
- Renting lines and tyres
We had read about Tito (+507) 6463 5009 in other papers but we were not able to get in touch with him. He maybe was on vaccation.
Roger (+507) 229 2785 was a recomendation from friends and seemes to be a new agent on the market, but he had no tyres and lines available that date.
Rick (+507) 6427 3044 or (+507) 6573 3613 responded very prompt and delivered lines and tyres to Shelter Bay Marina were we picked them up by dingy. That was two days before transit date. Cost 100USD including him picking them upp att the dingy dock in Las Brisas.
- Finding line handlers
There is a board in the foajé of the restaurant in the Shelter Bay Marina where people announce that they are interested in linehandling or the need of linehandlers. It was not a lot of announcements when we transited early in the season. So talking to other cruisers at the marina, having boatfriends transiting later than you and other contacts will be needed. Ther is also a homepage ”panlinehandler.com”. Under ”intro” you find a list of people announcing interest to linehandel but it seemed not very up to date.
Depending on how your relationship to the linehandler is, your economic arrangements will differ. Sometimes you pay for their travel expenses.
- Preparing the transit
The 4 linehandlers, the skipper and the advisor has to be provided with food under way. It has to be cooked meals and bottled water. The linehandlers will stay overnight on your boat.
You pick up your advisor at the Flats. Normal times for pickup are in between 13.00 and 16.00. Cristobal signal will call you on VHF channel 12 for exact bording time.
- The transit
We went together with two other boats and were rafted in the locks. Day two you have to go by engine about four hours across the gatun lake. The advisor will make you go as fast as you specified at the admessurement to keep the schedule. So do not overestimate your engines capacity.
- Panama city
Our advisor helped us to call a boattaxi from the Balboa yachtclub (VHF 6) in order to transport our linehandlers to shore. Our friends just stopped very quick att Balboas dock to do the same thing.
The anchorage is good att Las Brisas and the new floating dingy dock is free. Cruisers net 8.00 VHF 72.