Panama Canal Transit Information Print

pctinformation a. Canal Transit

Time is always of importance in the shipping industry and transit of a vessel through the Panama Canal is certainly no exception. 

It cannot be stressed sufficiently that as much notice of an impending transit of a vessel be given by   her Owners of Operators to this Agency  in order to provide a complete breakdown of Canal transit expenses so that funds can be transferred in a timely manner, thus securing the earliest possible transit.


b. Initial Transit     [Back to Index]                            

In the case of a vessel making her initial transit of the Panama Canal, the following documents should be onboard and copies forwarded to the Panama Canal Authority care of this agency prior to arrival in order to coordinate admeasurement and transit:

International Tonnage Certificate (ITC/69)

Calculation sheets for the ITC/69 Certificate

Lines plans or Offset tables

General Arrangement Plans (including profile view)

Funnel Plans

Capacity Plan

Tank Capacity Plan

Displacement Scale

Deadweight Scale

International Load Line Certificate

Should these documents, and in particular the ITC/69 Certificate not be available, an additional charge for Admeasurement will be levied against the vessel.


c. Pre Arrival Information       [Back to Index]

We suggest that vessels advise us of their ETA no less than 7 days in advance in order that we may assist Masters in providing all the necessary information with the newly instigated Automatic Data Collection System (ADCS) and submission of the required declarations via the Electronic Data Collection System (EDCS). The ADCS system has been implemented in order to comply with ISPS and IMO regulations and the EDCS System provides the electronic means to submit all required pre-arrival information to visit and/or transit the Panama Canal. These systems enable the Panama Canal Authority (PCA) to provide the highest level of security/service to all customers whilst executing an on-line risk assessment matrix to properly comply with international security regulations, safeguarding the Panama Canal and its customers’ assets.

All vessels arriving to canal waters are required to have submitted no less than 96 hours prior to arrival the information contained in the forms listed below. This information should be received at our agency no less than 120 hours prior to the vessel arrival at canal waters and allow for processing time. Information as to the required format or to obtain a copy of the latest PCA MyEDCS XML Editor OffLine Application software and or updated versions of General Reference Tables, Harmonized Codes or Port Codes, is available in the EDCS portion of the Panama Canal website. http://www.pancanal.com/eng/maritime/edcs/index.html

Declaration Forms:

Ship Due Form    This form requires general information to include but not limited to, Deratting Certificate, Ship Change Information, Movement Information, Ship Security Information, Last 10 and next Port of Call, Origin of Meat Cargo Stores, Stowaways, Animals and Diseases On Board.

Cargo Declaration Form    This form requires the following information:

General Cargo    It is required to specify the Harmonized Code, quantity in metric tones, Port of Loading and Port of Discharge, Location for each general cargo declared.

Dangerous Cargo    It is required to specify Proper Shipping Name, designate the UN or BC Code, Flash Point in Celsius, the quantity in metric tones, Port of Loading and Port of Discharge, and location of each dangerous cargo declared.

Containerized Cargo    It is required to specify the container ID, Type, Location above or below deck, Weight in metric tones, Name of cargo, Port of Loading and Port of Discharge. Please note it is required to declare all containers above and below deck including containers on deck being used for storage of vessels gear. Failure to declare all containers may result in tariffs for security inspections and escort services and/or delays to a vessel arriving in noncompliance. In addition to these charges, the Canal may also fine the vessel.

Please note that for large quantities of cargoes or containerized cargo to be declared, information will have to be submitted electronically, via the Canal Internet Gateway (CIG) for those companies that have obtained proper accreditation. For companies without CIG accreditation, sufficient time must be allocated prior to the vessels arrival for the manual entry of the information into the EDCS system. (All vessels with local visits are required to submit only the dangerous cargo information.)

Crew List Form    Name, Birthplace, Birth Date, Capacity, Nationality, Passport or Seaman’s Book number are required.

Passenger List Form    Name, Birthplace, Birth Date and Nationality are the minimum requirements.

For large quantities of crew or passenger declarations, information will have to be submitted electronically, via the Canal Internet Gateway (CIG) for those companies that have obtained proper accreditation. For companies without CIG accreditation, sufficient time must be allocated prior to the vessels arrival for the manual entry of the information into the EDCS system.

Small Craft Form    A combination of the above forms is for Yachts or small craft vessels under 125 feet in length. Small crafts vessels are required to submit only the “Small Craft Due” form, and are exempt from the 96 hours prior to arrival requirement. The Small Craft Form must be submitted upon arrival to canal waters.

The Panama Canal authority has implemented tariffs for security inspections and escort services for vessels that fail to comply with the 96 hour pre-arrival notice or that submit wrong or incomplete information. Failure to provide timely and correct information may trigger escort and inspection fees and/or delays to a vessel arriving in noncompliance. In addition to these charges, the Canal may also fine the vessel. In order to ensure that sufficient time is allowed for information to be processed and checked, it is important that our agency receive all the required information no less than 120 hours prior to arrival at Canal waters.

Should any additional technical assistance, information about the canal requirements or information regarding the establishment of a CIG (Canal Internet Gateway) or assistance in transmitting the information in a manner that is in accordance with Canal Regulations please don’t hesitate to contact us at wilford@shipsagent.comThis email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it.


d. Radio Pratique      [Back to Index]

Radio pratique may be granted by the Panama Canal Authority quarantine Office, on request from the vessel through the ship's local agent providing:

(a) The vessel is free of rats and vermin.

(b) The deratting certificate or deratting exemption certificate is valid (i.e., date of issue not more than 180 days prior to date of arrival at the Panama Canal).

(c) Vessels arriving within 15 days from the ports designated in the Aedes Aegypti Indices Bulletins disinfected with an approved aerosol.


e. VHF Radio Communication     [Back to Index]

Cristobal and Balboa port traffic is controlled through VHF Channel 12. It is suggested that vessels approaching either port, communicate with the signal station on this frequency, coordinating their movements and reporting their anchoring time. VHF Channel 13 is required for use during Canal transit and is exclusively reserved for that purpose. Our office maintains watch on Channel 12, but after initial contact, communication will be on a mutually agreed alternate channel.

In addition to the above, commercial facilities are available through Panama Radio which offers both international and local telephone service.


f. Transit Scheduling       [Back to Index]

The Panama Canal is a lock type canal, and as such, does not employ the convoy system. Each vessel is assigned a transit schedule in accordance with regulations governing pilotage and other restrictions imposed by the vessel's type, size, and/or cargo. The general rule governing transit priority is established on the basis of arrival time, but the need to schedule traffic with large vessels (or those with hazardous cargo) transiting in daylight without meeting oncoming traffic in the Cut, creates a traffic pattern with larger and more restricted vessels being dispatched in the early hours of the morning and others following in the afternoon and during the night. Transit Booking System: In 1983 the Canal adopted, as an option, a transit reservation system which permits a limited number of booked transits each day, which further complicates the traffic pattern.

Full details of all the regulations governing the reservation system are not possible in this booklet, but can be provided on request. When canal capacity is reduced, a corresponding reduction in the number of bookings will be made and the Canal Authority reserves the right to suspend acceptance of booking altogether. We suggest that unless there is a pressing need for your vessel to be assigned transit on a particular day, you should consider the reservation system as an option to be used in time of congestion or heavy traffic, and then, only after careful consideration of the full scope of regulations and costs involved.


g. Manning      [Back to Index]

Every vessel navigating the Panama Canal must be sufficiently manned in officers and crew for the safe handling of the vessel. The Master must be on the bridge and the Chief Engineer in the engine room while a vessel is getting underway, anchoring, shifting berth, passing through the locks and Gaillard Cut, and all other officers at their regular stations.

Canal Authority line handlers will be assigned to handle the towing locomotive lines at the locks.

The number of line handlers is determined primarily by the size of the vessel.


h. Towing Locomotives      [Back to Index]

Vessels are towed through the locks by electric locomotives (mules) using steel wire towing lines. Canal regulations provide for specific construction and placement of chocks and bitts for use in towing through the locks. Vessels carrying deck cargoes should ensure that these chocks and bitts are left accessible for use at the Panama Canal.


i. Pilot Platforms      [Back to Index]

Unless of unusual configuration, it may be taken as a general rule that all transiting vessels which are over 600 feet in length, and have a beam of 100 feet or more with the bridge aft are required to have pilot platforms erected in the forward part of the vessel for the use of the extra pilots that are assigned.


j. Documents Required on Arrival      [Back to Index]

The Panama Canal Treaty of 1978, which replaced the 1903 Treaty, disestablished the former Canal Zone, the territories and ports reverting to the Republic of Panama on October 1, 1979. Consequently, vessels calling at the Canal now deal with the governmental authorities of the Republic of Panama for any port related activities, as well as with the Panama Canal Authority for transit related formalities. If a vessel is calling for transit, the Authority Boarding Officer will require the following documents, which should be prepared prior to arrival on the proper Canal forms:

Ship's Information & Quarantine.

In addition, the following documents should also be available for inspection:

Clearance from last port

Panama Canal Tonnage Certificate

Ship's Register

Sanitary Certificates

(Deratting exemption, etc.)

If a vessel is berthing at either of the terminal ports, a boarding party of representatives of the Panamanian Government will also attend. The Panamanian forms are similar to the Canal forms listed above, with the exception that they are in English and Spanish, will be processed in similar manner.


k. Transit Booking System      [Back to Index]

Reservation Procedure: Request for transit reservations must be presented to Marine Traffic Control within one of the periods designated on a special form which also provides a guarantee of payment of the fee. The specific daily order of transit for booked vessels is determined by the Canal Authorities and does not follow a priority of either request or arrival time. The Canal does, however, guarantee that the vessel will transit on the day for which it is booked, insofar as it will arrive at the first set of locks prior to 2400 on that day and will move through the Canal within an 18-hour period.

Once booked, large and other restricted vessels which do not arrive at the Canal by 0200 hours on the day of transit and all other vessels which do not arrive by 1400 hours on the day of transit, as well as vessels which are not ready to proceed at the time fixed for transit, forfeit the booking fee and lose the booked transit. These vessels will then be placed in the regular transit schedule as if they had not been booked. In addition, a schedule of fees applies in the event of cancellation.

For a detailed proforma of Panama Canal Transit expenses kindly contact us at wilford@shipsagent.comThis email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

The complete canal tariff is available using the Expenses link above.


l. Pilot Shelters      [Back to Index]

Vessel's with a beam of 80 feet and over, must provide Pilot Shelters on the bridge wings for the pilot.

In the event that a vessel arrives without such platforms or shelters approved by the Canal Authority, it will be delayed until suitable platforms/shelters are fabricated and installed.


m. Agency      [Back to Index]

A representative of our organization will board every vessel on its arrival at the Canal. A watch is maintained through VHF Channel 12 during regular hours, supplemented by facilities of the commercial stations after normal office hours. Our duty personnel, who are on standby on a 24-hour basis, may be contacted through these facilities and, in addition, will maintain communication with Canal transit authorities to monitor the vessel's position and progress as she proceeds through the Canal.

To facilitate and expedite arrangements for supplies and services, we request that Master advise all requirements prior to arrival, so that arrangements may be accomplished at the port of arrival, thereby leaving the vessel free to proceed directly to sea once transit has been completed.


n. Accidents      [Back to Index]

In the event of an accident in port or during transit causing damage to the vessel, the Canal, port installations, or personal injuries, the Master should notify us immediately with available details, advising whether damage is such as to require survey or temporary repairs, etc. No claim will be accepted by the Canal Authority once the vessel has departed without an investigation having been held. At time of writing a firm modus operandi for marine accidents has not yet been established by the Port Operators. However under normal circumstances a vessel is permitted to depart if some form of guarantee is made.