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Is the Panama Canal back to Normal?

By Sue Richards last modified Jun 20, 2008 11:08 AM

Published: 2008-06-20 11:08:44
Countries: Panama

June 17 2008
Because of the jam in the canal, waiting time 6 to 8 weeks, you gave the advice to make the transit next year. When do you think the waiting time could return to normal in 2009 and as of what month?

It seems that as of now, the Panama Canal is back to normal, with a wait of three or four working days (or less if you work at it).

The busy season this year was affected by an unusually high arrival of commercial vessels. There have also been persistent rumours of labour problems, however these involved working to rule, which did not seem to affect ship traffic. This was about 39 vessels a day, which is at or very near capacity depending on the ship mix.

Yacht thru put affects ship thru put, so yachts suffer. Not only do yachts take a time slot, they also take a skilled canal employee (pilot or advisor), who could be a tug captain or mate. Both are in high demand to move ships.

Once the backlog of commercial vessels was cleared it took about two weeks to clear the backlog of yachts.

The key to making a canal transit more or less on a schedule, is to come to Colon and be measured, pay your fees and get on the transit list. Then spend a month enjoying Panama’s many sailing attractions. The only downside is you may have to fight the trades a bit getting back to San Blas.

Your measurement is good for 30 days and you can check in by phone while you enjoy some great cruising.

Shelter Bay Marina, Panama, informed us that many of their guests this year made the best of the delays, and spent quality time in the Rio Chagres or used SBM facilities to catch up on boat projects. They also advise that many cruisers would do well to consider allowing more time for Panama. The summer months which present hurricane problems elsewhere, are great for sailing in Panama, typically with west wind, blue sky and less rain.

More marinas in Panama means more and better places to get things fixed. More importantly, Panama enjoys much lower costs and much better access to parts and supplies than other stopovers. Many more items are stocked locally and packages for yachts in transit come to the boat and are duty free.

Our thanks to Russ of SBM and David Wilson for their feedback.