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Panama Canal Authority Tightens Screws On Yachts

By doina — last modified Sep 16, 2005 09:42 AM

Published: 2005-09-16 09:42:24
Countries: Panama

Noonsite has received a report from the owner of a yacht that had just transited the Panama Canal and is now moored at the Balboa Yacht Club on the Pacific side, that Panama Canal Authority launches had been going around telling anyone aboard the outer 5 rows of boats that they had to leave immediately. It later became clear that the Panama Canal Authority wanted to clear away all boats on the outer row of moorings – in total approximately 60 boats. Unfortunately Flamenco marina could take only a few boats and the rest would have absolutely nowhere to go but to anchor out. This latest move came on top of an earlier decision to stop boats using the Pedro Miguel Boat Club as a place to stay.

According to our contact, a last minute appeal to Senor Aleman, the President of the Panama Canal Authority, has led to a temporary shelving of the order concerning the Balboa Yacht Club moorings, but it has been stressed that this is only a temporary reprieve.

To make matters worse, later we received a further report stating that PCA launches were asking owners of boats anchored east of the causeway to leave immediately.

It all confirms the serious concerns among sailors, both those based in Panama and those who only transit the Canal, that the Panama Canal Authority is determined to make life difficult for pleasure craft owners. The future does not at all bode well for non-commercial users of this major international waterway.

Add this to the previous report.

Following the above report, Noonsite received an update on the current situation from one of our correspondents in Panama

At present, the Pedro Miguel Boat Club is being evicted from its facility by the ACP causing the loss of the only long term, intensive yacht repair facility in Panama, the Balboa Yacht Club is losing many of its deep water moorings to actions of the ACP, the Panama Canal Yacht Club is losing its two principle yacht piers to Panama Ports expansion ... thus the established yacht support facilities are in decline, and there are not enough facilities at the Atlantic and Pacific entrances to the canal to handle yachts at peak times, and now the only "free" open anchorage is being arbitrarily closed by the authorities of Panama. These comments reflect the general attitude to yachting in Panama since the end of the Panama Canal Treaties. While Panama claims that they want tourism, all of the actions since 2000 have have been detrimental to the attracting of yachts to Panama.

Noonsite received on 15 September a further report from one of the skippers who had been asked to move

We went to see the harbor master yesterday and got an extension till the end of the month instead of being all pulled to Taboga yesterday, so the immediate pressure is off. Senor Castro, the harbor master and also the person I recognized as the one who had been here on Friday threatening and screaming at us, clearly did not act on his own decisions, but was constantly on the phone with his superiors to forward what we said and receive the answers. After first we had been told to move because of military maneuvers, this changed to dredging and finally to the existence of an underwater cable, but at the end of our conversation the real reason emerged: Panama would lease all of these waters to big buck investors and they did not want us there, so we had to move. Even the President's name was mentioned. And besides, his superiors did not want people on boats to live in the country, that was also an issue to be investigated. It was interesting for me realize how little Senor Castro knew. We had an up to date chart with us that showed the forbidden area as well as the dedicated small craft anchorage, he knew nothing about it and he did not care, by order he has to get us out of where we are, it does not matter if it is in an other part of the prohibited area, we are for example allowed to go to the west side or the causeway. So I am thinking what to do. We agreed to leave by the end of the month, so I do not think that we really achieved a victory, just more time till the defeat. I do not want to stress the law, as I do not want to end up in the small craft anchorage. So I think what I will do next is to formate a letter to the IPAT, stressing security concerns, the other side having a history of two sunken boats last year plus a dead person the year before, reminding them that thanks to their fabulous pro propaganda there were about a hundred boats on their way to Panama and where they intended to put them as they are so busy chasing everybody away and pulling up moorings, pointing out that we are generating lot of employment and put out a lot of dollars into the economy, etc.

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